The history of the rice gene pool in Suriname: circulations of rice and people from the eighteenth century until late twentieth century

Maat, Harro; Andel, Tinde van


Alongside the trans-Atlantic slave trade, plant species travelled from Africa to the Americas and back. This article examines the emerging rice gene pool in Suriname due to the global circulation of people, plants and goods. We distinguish three phases of circulation, marked by two major transitions. Rice was brought to the Americas by European colonizers, mostly as food on board of slave ships. In Suriname rice started off as a crop grown only by Maroon communities in the forests of the Suriname interior. For these runaway slaves cultivating several types of rice for diverse purposes played an important role in restoring some of their African culture. Rice was an anti-commodity that acted as a signal of protest against the slave-based plantation economy. After the end of slavery, contract labourers recruited from British India and the Dutch Indies also brought rice to Suriname. These groups grew rice as a commodity for internal and global markets. This formed the basis of a second transition, turning rice into an object of scientific research. The last phase of science-driven circulation of rice connected the late-colonial period with the global Green Revolution.