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Marieke Heemskerk

As an anthropologist, I analyze how social, cultural, and economic forces shape livelihoods and resource use decisions among rural people in low-income countries. Currently I am living and working in Suriname. This page provides links to my background and my current work. Click on the links for a copy of my CV, for a list of publications, and for a selection of professional reports about the small-scale gold mining sector in Suriname.

Contact information:

Marieke Heemskerk
Haydnstraat 15
Paramaribo, Suriname
Email: mheemskerk@yahoo.com
Phone: (+597) 458416 / 8886576

I would like to hear from you if you have questions about my work, or if you are in need of a social science consultant in the areas of development and conservation.


Interviewing small-scale gold miners.
Sella Creek, Suriname. December 1998.

Research team crossing the Tapanahoni River (Sur),
January 2004

I am working as a social science consultant in the small-scale gold mining sector, in Suriname and abroad. Recent research projects among small-scale gold miners and the members of affected communities in Suriname have focused on perceptions of gold mining impacts and on knowledge and ideas about self-organization and formalization. I also have worked on more general studies of the small-scale gold mining sector, among others for the World Wildlife Fund-Guianas and the National Institute for Environment and Development Suriname. Unrelated to mining I have written the social science component of a Country Environmental Assessment for the Inter American Development Bank and a country information guide for Culture Grams. You can click on the link to read the reports.


Barite miners in Nigeria, February 2005

Since mid-2005 I have been working with a consulting team (Project Consult-Gmb, Germany) hired by the Ministry of Solid Minerals Development of the Federal Government of Nigeria, to help develop a pilot project aimed at promoting sustainable barite production as an alternative livelihood strategy in poor rural communities in Nigeria. This assignment is part of a broader World Bank funded project for the Sustainable Management of Mineral Resources, which includes a major component directed at reorganizing artisanal and small-scale mining activities in the country. Our team, consisting of a mining geologist, a mineral processing expert, a conflict resolution expert, and myself (anthropologist) visited Nigeria in July-August 2005. We interacted with barite mining communities in three states, and held consultations with government officials, NGO representatives, and international donor organizations to identify synergies and local project partners. The pilot-project is projected to start before the end of 2005 and will last for two years.


Washing gold, Nigeria, 2004

In 2003 I worked with a team of mining engineers to establish standards for baseline studies on small-scale mining in Africa. This project was commissioned by the Communities and Small-Scale Mining (CASM) group; a multi-donor networking and coordination facility in the area of artisanal and small-scale mining. The mentioned project resulted in a toolkit with analytical, methodological, and logistic guidelines to aid the compilation of baseline data in artisanal mining communities. We field-tested the toolkit in an artisanal gold mining area in Nigeria with the help of a Nigerian team of researchers (2004-5). This effort included training the local consultants in use of the toolkit; helping start up the field work in two artisanal mining communities; and assisting with data analysis and report writing. You can read more about this project on my profiling artisanal and small-scale mining in Africa site


Focus group with elderly. Mooitaki (Sur), 2003.

As an academic researcher I have worked since 1996 among the Maroons of Suriname. My doctoral research analyzed the socioeconomic drivers of small-scale gold mining among the Ndyuka Maroons (2000). During more than a year of fieldwork in small-scale mining camps and nearby communities, I integrated ethnography with the quantitative analysis of household data to study how socio-cultural, economic and demographic attributes shape subsistence strategies.

As a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Wisconsin, I conducted a follow-up study. This project examines how access to national social welfare systems affects the participation in small-scale gold mining in Suriname and French Guiana. My publications highlight different aspects of the working life of miners, including livelihood strategies, subsistence risk, and gender.  Click here for a copy of the dissertation.


Modeling social-ecological systems. Madison (USA), 2002.

While my training is in the social sciences, I have collaborated with and learned from ecologists, mining engineers, economists, and researchers in other fields. In 1998, an ecologist and I integrated interview data with ecological field measurements to model deforestation due to small-scale gold mining in Suriname. Together with a limnologist (fresh water researcher) I facilitated a training session for students on conceptual modeling of social-ecological systems (2002). On yet another occasion, I worked in a team to develop a theoretical model about innovation in such systems (2003).

Some images of small-scale gold mining in Suriname

hydraulic pocline burningHg
Hydraulic mining Backhoe excavator Burning the gold-mercury amalgam

Acknowledgements: Living and conducting research in the forest would not be possible without the hospitality, friendship, and life lessons of many Maroon individuals and communities. Gaan gaan tangi fi yee! I also would like to thank many other individuals in Suriname and French Guiana for their continued advice and support. I gratefully acknowledge financial support for various aspects of my work of: the National Science Foundation, Division of Cultural Anthropology (grant# 0221646 and grant#9726292); World Wildlife Fund- Guianas; and the University of Wisconsin IGERT program (NSF IGERT Grant 9870703)

Contact information: Contact me by e-mail or phone (+597 8886576) if you have questions about or comments on my research projects

Copyright Last modified: September, 2005