Keeping the forests standing and oil in the ground; Nemonte upholds spirit of Amazon people

When talking of Amazon forest preservation, one cannot ever ignore the name of Nemonte Nenquimo, an indigenous and environmental activist from the Ecuadorian Amazon region.

One of the winners of the 2020 United Nations Environment Programme’s Champions of the Earth award for Inspiration and Action and the most powerful voices in Human Rights, Nemonte Nenquimo is remembered  for keeping the forests standing and oil in the ground.

For her, she did not want to become a celebrity or to become the most influential woman leaders of the world. However, for her, she wanted her daughter and others to live in peace, surrounded by the richness of the Amazon forests.

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Fighting for Indigenous peoples’ right to a healthy environment, free from oil exploration, Nemonte was instrumental in overturning a court ruling in Ecuador. Through her lawsuit, she prevented the government from selling land in the Amazon region to oil companies on the Waorani territory.

The Time Magazine chose her as one of the most influential people of 2020. She had received the Goldman Environment prize.

She is the president of the Coordinating Council of the Waorani Nationality of Ecuador Pastaza and co-founder of Alainza celibo. Apart from protecting the Amazon forests, she also works for the rights of the indigenous communities.

Nemonte believes that the fight against destruction of Amazon forest was not just for the indigenous people but also for the whole world. With climate change affecting everyone, she says that the struggle is for the whole humanity.

She said “the river, the animals, and the medicinal plants. We are protecting all this because the Amazon is our only home.”  Pointing out that the western world thought the jungle as just places of resources and nothing else, she said “But for us, indigenous peoples, it is full of life, full of resources that have sustained our life for thousands of years.”

She always demanded respect for their right to life and the rights of nature. Stressing that Indigenous people knew how to respect the forests and have lived together with her for thousands of years, she said that the indigenous people were are at the forefront and wanted others to follow their path.

She is a member of the Waorani nation, who is legendary hunter-harvesters of the south-central Ecuadorian Amazon. There are approximately 5000 members spread across 54 communities over about 2.5 million acres of Amazon region.

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