Climate change in Ricanau Mofo, Suriname

Climate change in Ricanau Mofo, Suriname

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A systems-based risk analysis on the impacts of climate change on the needs of a low-lying, rural village community based on participatory action research.

Ricanau Mofo, a rural Maroon village in Suriname, is increasingly facing the effects of climate change. Higher temperatures, increased peak rainfall and rising water levels threaten the local community and its traditions. This study examines the impact of climate change on the needs of the community of this village (research question 1) and proposes steps to increase the village's resilience to the undeniable threats of climate change (research question 2).

In the first, theoretical section, this thesis constructs a framework illustrating the influence of climate on needs. Guided by a socio-ecological theoretical framework and Maslow's needs hierarchy, an integrated, needs-based framework was developed as a starting point for a risk analysis. Besides assessing these risks, it also provides a picture of the community's adaptability and resilience. A second part of this study then applied this framework to the findings of participatory action research in Ricanau Mofo. Here, the analysis of the results paints an overarching picture of the impacts of climate change on the community, reflecting how local needs are directly or indirectly threatened (research question 1). Broadly speaking, the direct threat is mainly situated at the level of the bottom two steps of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, physical needs and the need for security and safety. Nevertheless, it is also important to include the higher needs (connectedness, recognition and growth) in a risk analysis, as these strongly determine the adaptability of the community, which has a profound impact on the village's resilience. A community that can also meet these highest needs is stronger in the face of expected and unexpected challenges, which is of great importance in the context of climate change.

The insight this thesis provides into the current context of Ricanau Mofo is the first essential step towards effective climate adaptation. To facilitate the effective taking of the next steps (research question 2), this thesis proposes a process architecture and sequence that integrates academic and policy goals into one project. This advocates a joint interaction between local and supra-local levels, with the initiative coming from the local level. The proposed process architecture at the local level consists of a core team with a coordinating function, and several thematic working groups, each of which develops a subproject. The themes of these subprojects resulted from a variety of observed challenges in the village. Grafted onto the findings of the study, a participation tool was developed to be used as a tool by the thematic working groups and future researchers to facilitate a dialogue on possible future scenarios and the planning process. This tool provides the working groups and the community with inspiration for possible actions, illustrated by reference projects, to address challenges and seize opportunities. This participation tool - consisting of "talking cards" - is attached.

The results of this study came within a delineated time frame and a specific socio-spatial context. A comprehensive large-scale study is recommended for wider application to similar villages. Although the results of the integrated risk analysis are context-specific, methodological findings can be translated to other studies. This needs-based approach highlights the importance of culturally informed interpretations and the need to secure all needs for improved resilience of the village and its community against future challenges.

In summary, this thesis lays an important foundation for researchers and policymakers involved in Ricanau Mofo and, by extension, lessons can be drawn for climate adaptation in low-lying, rural and tropical areas. The urgency of climate adaptation in Ricanau Mofo requires a collaborative, culturally sensitive approach to protect community needs from the inevitable impacts of climate change.

  • Authors:
    • Eva Vandermeeren

    • Marleen Goethals (Promotor)
    • Thomas Vanoutrive (Promotor)
    • Marciano Dasai (Promotor)
  • Period:
    • 2022 — 2023  

    • Urbanism & Spatial Planning

    • Master thesis

    • Anton De Kom Universiteit van Suriname