Several Suriname black rice grains were cultivated into fully grown plants in the Hortus Botanicus in Amsterdam. An international team of scientists led by Wageningen University compared the DNA of these plants grown in Amsterdam with over 100 varieties of black grains from across West Africa, from Senegal to Chad.
The Suriname black rice was shown to be similar to a specific type of black rice that derived from the fields of Mande-speaking farmers in western Cote d’Ivoire, said Wageningen in its press release.
Maroons in Surinam cultivate a species of rice with black grains but they rarely eat them but instead offer them to ancestors and used them in spiritual herb baths.
Historical documents suggest that the black grains originate from African rice, once bought by slave traders along the coast of West Africa to feed their slaves. For centuries, the liberated Maroons cherished the African crop as a tangible reminder of their past. But it was not known from which African country the rice originated.
Although Dutch slave traders bought most of their African slaves from Ghana, Benin and Central Africa, the recently digitized log of the Zeeland vessel D’Eenigheid indicates that rice and slaves were also occasionally purchased along the coast of Liberia, the country west of Cote d’Ivoire. At the time, Mande speakers were known as good rice farmers and highly sought after by slave traders.
Wageningen hailed this “combination of ethno botanic, historic and genetic research” that established the link between Suriname black rice and the fields in western Ivory Coast because “this can help trace the unwritten migration history of people and crops.”
The scientists believe that the white rice, bananas, beans and tubers grown on these farmlands today still have many more stories to tell. Enditem