Leader of Indigenous Amazon Won the Green Nobel for Protecting the Rainforest


Nemonte Nenquimo, a 33-year-old leader of indigenous Amazon, was honoured a prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize. She won the world's foremost award—the 'Green Nobel' for grassroots environmental activism for leading an organization to save Ecuador's rainforests.

By the court order, 500,000 acres of Waorani territory in the Amazon rainforest are protected from oil companies. This was due to Nenquimo leading an indigenous campaign and legal action. Her leadership has caused the other tribes to follow her footsteps to protect additional rainforest's areas from oil extraction.

Founded in 1989 by the Goldman Environmental Foundation, the Goldman Prize is awarded to six environmentalists each year. It is awarded annually to activists from each of the world's six populated continental regions.

The pristine rainforest that overlaps with Yasuni National park is the place where the Woarani people reside. They are traditional hunter-gatherers with a population of around 5,000 people. The Smithsonian stated that their territory has more species of life than any other place in the world.

Ecuador's rainforest has suffered from a severe consequence of oil exploration, logging, and road building since the 1960s. Waste is dumped into local rivers by oil companies that causes the land to be contaminated. This has led to a rise in public health problems in disease and miscarriage.

In 2018, Ecuador's Minister of Hydrocarbon directly violated the indigenous' right when he announced an auction of 16 new oil contracts located on their titled lands.

Nenquimo fought back against the planned oil concessions by co-founding the Ceibo Alliance. She coordinated Waorani communities, held region-wide assemblies and launched a digital campaign. It targeted potential investors with the slogan "Our Rainforest is Not for Sale".

The communities managed to maintain their independence from the oil company bribes as Nenquimo lent a hand by installing rainwater harvesting systems and solar panels. She also supported the cacao and chocolate production business led by women and acquired training for the youth to be filmmakers and document the activists. They were able to publish powerful images for the campaign—including aerial drone footage of the Waorani rainforests.

She eventually acted as the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against the government, and in April 2019 the Waorani won the case when the courts ruled in their favour.

She deftly connected the world of indigenous people and Western society, mediated the old and the young, and reunited the distinct indigenous tribes that were once divided.

The president of the Foundation, John Goldman, complimented the honourees for defending and risking their lives and livelihoods and inspiring the people with real, lasting environmental progress. He also stated that those environmental honourees reflected the powerful impact that a person can have on many.

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