Suriname ends land deal with Colony Mennonites that would have impacted forests

Mennonite large-scale farmers and investors from Mexico visited Suriname in 2022. — Terra Invest Mennonite large-scale farmers and investors from Mexico visited Suriname in 2022. — Terra Invest

The government of Suriname has scrapped plans to allow Colony Mennonites from Bolivia and other countries to purchase about 74,000 acres of land. Indigenous politicians and conservation groups criticized the arrangement on climate and transparency grounds.

Die Mennonitische Post and El Deber reported Suriname had approved a pilot project allowing the settlement of 50 Mennonite families, most from Bolivia. Delegates from colonies in Bolivia, Mexico and Belize traveled to Suriname almost monthly last year.

Thousands of acres had been purchased. The proposed settlement was based on a roughly 115-square-mile section of land, with the possibility of expanding to an area ten times bigger.

More than 90% of Suriname is covered by Amazon rainforest, and environmental experts warned about the risks of deforestation. The Suriname Parliament processed the issue and rejected the land deal in March after critics highlighted a lack of compliance with established rules.

Unidentified Mennonite sources told media outlets that information received from the government in recent months was different than what was promised earlier. Many decided to no longer participate in the project, which was facilitated by Dutch company Terra Invest.

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