Powering a Brighter Future in Suriname

Inadequate access to energy is a major challenge faced by developed and developing nations, making it difficult for education, health care and local economies to thrive. As a company, we recognize the potential impact of our role in alleviating energy poverty, particularly in areas where we explore for hydrocarbons. This struggle for consistent energy access is rarely felt more acutely than in villages like Drietabbetje and Asidonhopo, located deep in the remote rainforests of Suriname. Although coastal cities in South America’s smallest nation enjoy the privilege of round-the-clock electricity, the majority of interior settlements depend on 12- to 13-year-old generators that are often in disrepair. This limits electricity to four hours a day during the week and 10 hours a day on the weekends — that is, if all homes are lucky enough to receive electricity during the window in which it is provided. More often than not, the four- to 10-hour power cycle can’t reach the hundreds of residents in Drietabbetje, Asidonhopo or their surrounding areas.

“We did a site visit to both of these locations to see for ourselves what the situation was,” said Aishel Bradley, external affairs representative for APA Suriname. “The villagers explained that the generators break down fairly often and then they’re in the dark for two to three weeks before they find a part and are able to get them running again.”

These villages are home to multiple Surinamese ethnic groups, with approximately 800 of the Aukaners people settling in Drietabbetje and 500 of the Saramaccan people living in Asidonhopo. Most homes do not consume as much electricity as in more urban areas of Suriname, with village families usually living in a small hut or house with a single lamp, mini-fridge and a small television or radio.

Artisanal goldmining, tourism, woodworking and dressmaking are a few of the trades that provide a source of income for villagers, with productivity and profitability depending largely on access to consistent electricity. Students and local hospitals are also deeply affected by intermittent power loss, which poses challenges to remote learning and the ability to provide needed medical care. Many young villagers decide to pursue goldmining or leave the interior altogether, opting for a better life in Paramaribo and sadly, leaving the Aukaner and Saramaccan cultures at risk of being lost.

Our approach to community partnerships is rooted in creating shared stakeholder value that provides lasting impact for those in need. Access to energy and supporting community well-being are key pillars of this approach, and criteria we use to identify projects that align with our ESG framework and core values as a company. After engaging in conversations with the Surinamese Ministry of Natural Resources and conducting extensive research and on-the-ground evaluations, we initiated a plan to install new commercial-grade generators in Drietabbetje and Asidonhopo that will provide six consistent hours of power each day during the week and 12 consistent hours a day on the weekends.

“This is really about providing basic access to energy that we often take for granted,” said Fay Fitzsimons, manager, Community Partnerships and Government Affairs. “For these villagers to receive reliable electricity is transformational, especially for women and children, who often handle cooking, cleaning and other household chores. The solution to energy access will come in many forms, with diesel-powered generators emerging as the clear, reliable answer in this situation.”

Once installed, the new generators will provide reliable electricity, supporting the preservation of Indigenous traditions, expansion of educational opportunities, access to quality health care and increased local trade. With a plan in place to improve energy security in both villages, we will be able to power a brighter future in Drietabbetje and Asidonhopo.