Knowing the enemy: a project on alcoholism in the Indian village of Kwamala (Suriname)

dialogue communautaire
Alcoolisme / Santé

A story in 4 pages on a scourge that threatens the health and social balance of the village of Kwamala: the Kassiri, a locally produced cassava beer - Wilfrid Lupano, Mayana Itoïz and Laure Garancher.

Arriving at the village of Kwamalasamutu, in the extreme south of Suriname, we expected to work with the inhabitants on malaria prevention.

Maison traditionnelle Galette de manioc séchant  

But surprise: after a day and a half of discussions and working groups, it appears that malaria is no longer so much a problem in the region, and that the problem is actually well taken care of by the local medical mission. On the other hand, the village is plagued by a scourge far more threatening: alcoholism.

We can see it quickly: the local production of kassiri, a fermented cassava-based drink, has grown considerably with the arrival of electric cassava mills. The whole village drinks it, in the afternoon, in kinds of open-air pubs improvised at various places in the village. We see there pregnant women and children drinking. There are also mothers drinking and then breast feeding their new born....

Cautiously, during the working sessions with the volunteer members of the village, we start talking about it: is not this a subject to be discussed?

Sous le toit de la maison commune

And then we get a lof of feedback from the inhabitants. While no one mentioned alcoholism when we asked what were the main health problems encountered in the village, tongues are loosing up now that we pinpoint the problem. The chief admitted having lost the battle against this scourge. His authority is flouted. Fights, comas, accidents now punctuate the life of the village. Young people even tried to shoot him, one night, drinking! But the subject is delicate. Originally, kassiri is a sacred drink and imposing a ban on it is out of the equation ... Finally, everyone agrees that it is despite everything the subject on which we must focus our project. But how can we talk about this problem without hurting sensitivities and insulting traditions? It is the testimony of one of the two soldiers of the village who will give us the direction ...

During a long interview, a soldier tells us that if he has become a soldier, it is to learn how to use the "weapons of the whites" so that he can protect his own if one day the whites return to torment them. Because the history of the village is marked by drama. The trios and weiweis who make up the majority of the community have been regularly targetted by the authorities in Suriname or Brazil. But he also tells us that today he has a feeling of helplessness with his machine gun because he feels that his village is declining. But the enemy is of a new kind that cannot be push back with a firearm. It is this observation that will give us our starting point for the story: a young boy who wants to become a great warrior one day comes across a jaguar in the forest. Instead of killing and eating him, the jaguar warns him of a great danger which threatens the village. The young boy then starts patrolling in vain in the forest. But he finds nothing, for the enemy is already within the walls ...

Extract (in trio, then in English):

L'histoire en langue Tyrio

The villagers were involved in all the stages of realization: choice of the characters, the costumes, realization of the storyboard. We regularly showed our work, to make sure the pages were understandable and effective.

The original draft provided that WHO would ensure the translation, printing and distribution of this story. But following a reorganization of its services, this final phase has taken a problematic lag. It is therefore another NGO, Amazon Conservation Team, that will ensure this final phase of the project.