Photographer:Sanne Derks
Continent: Europe
Country: Netherlands
Project Title: Sumak Kawsay: The Rights of Nature
Project Continent: South America
Project Country: Ecuador
Nominated By: Lars Boering
Seconded By: Frank Meo,

South American Ecuador, with its unprecedented biodiversity, is to date the only country in the world where nature has been granted rights, which are enshired in Article 71-74 of the Constitution. The rights of Nature are inspired by Sumak Kawsay, a premise taken from pre-Columbian Andean Quechua cosmology. It is translated with "Buen Vivir" (Good Living), and refers to living in harmony with each other and with nature. By assigning rights to nature, it becomes a legal entity that can be protected; the right is not without obligation and can be defended and claimed.
As one of the poorest Latin American countries, mining in Ecuador has intensified enormously in recent years. Also oil extraction is an extractivism that is applied on a large scale, often in protected nature reserves. Paradoxically, the government legitimizes these practices with the same concept Sumak Kawsay and promises to use the revenues for a "Good Life", for example by investing extra in better education or health care.
As a consequence, tensions and conflicts arise that are taken to court. This project aims to investigate how Ecuadorian women from small indigenous communities in the Amazone are at the forefront in the fight against mining and petroleum companies polluting their territories. In particular it are the women who, being mothers wanting to conserve their lands for future generations, who are outspoken and taking the lead in the conservation of the Amazone. Their fight does not only concern the residents and immediate inhabitants, but ultimately all of us, as the Amazone forest is important to all of us on earth.

Alexandra Narvaez, A

Alexandra Narvaez is an indigenous A i Kofan leader from the Amazonian community Sinangoe She battled against mining concessions and with her community Sinangoe she won a large victory against the big mining companies that invaded and polluted the Sinangoe territories in the Ecuadorian Amazone Since this historical history petroleum and mining companies first need the concession of indigenous communities before they can start extracting not only in the A i Kofan territories but in entire Ecuador Sinangoe 5-3-2023

Aerial view of Sinangoe

Aerial view of Sinangoe in the northern province of Sucumb os Ecuador The community won a historic battle against mining companies and their A K ofan territories have become protected Also judge ruled that nation-wide indigenous communities should be consulted before mining concessions can be given in their territories Sinangoe 5-3-2023

Suffering the consequences of petroleum pollution

Mother Mait Grefa holds her son Emilio Gonzalez Since two months he suffers from steoporosis and he cannot walk anymore The family wants to visit an independent doctor to investigate if his disease is related to the pollution in the area as the family is expecting Rio Dotch Shushufindi 10-3-2023

Petroleum pollution in Shushufindi

The sky in Shushufindi is lighted by the fires and pollution caused by the gas burners that the petroleum companies use to get rid of the petroleum waste It shows the amount of pollution and the intoxication in the air Shushufindi 11-2-2023

Almost home

Rosa Aranda waiting to board the wooden canoe in the rain before starting the three hour trip to their village on the River Villano As a consequence of a petroleum company at the other side of the river the water is polluted causing diseases in the communities living on the shores of the river Also the fishes die and the crops won t grow Paparagua 23-4-2023

Petroleum waste dumped in the forest

The hands of Donald Moncayo are covered in petroleum while showing the waste that has been dumped in so-called swimming pools by the petroleum company Texaco now Chevron in the past decades The oil company dumped its waste material in rivers and buried it in pools in nature in the provinces of Sucumbios and Orellana Donald Moncayo wants to raise awareness on this environmental scandal by leading Toxic-Tours and is suing the company in name of the people suffering from cancer and other diseases caused by the toxic waste Lago Agrio 2-3-2023

First women in the indigenous guard

Andrea Narvaez is the first woman participating in the indigenous guard of Sinangoe The guard sets out to patrol the territories to monitor if nobody is invading their territories With the help of drones and camera traps the community was able to gather proofs of illegal mining that helped them win a landmark legal battle against gold mining in the area in 2018 52 mining concessions were nulifies to protect the headwaters of the Aguarico River since these concessions were violating the K ofan s right of consent freeing up more than 32 000 hectares of primary rainforest from the devastating environmental and cultural impact of gold mining Sinangoe 4-3-2023

Sumak Kawsay in practice

Girls are braiding each others hair in the community of Piwiri a hamlet consisting of just 13 houses at the river Viane in Ecuador Especially the women in the community are strongly opposed against the petroleum acitivities in the area They are facing the treat of re-opening a well within the Moretecocha territory Also they are in the area of influence of an active petroleum well that is based in a neighboring territory but causing pollution in the river After the community filed a demand against the petroleum company the benefits for compensation education and health projects have stopped and the community is being impoverished 23-4-2023

Polluted fish

The petroleum companies are poisoning us is a wide-heard expression in the Amazone The pollution is contaminating the rivers and fish Most communities are close to rivers to survive One way to fight mining and petroleum companies is by fighting for ancestral rights over their lands so the companies wanting to extract the resources need prior consent of the communities to be granted permission to extract As such even the smallest communities possess some power to fight the multi-millionaire companies Piwiri 24-4-2023

Rosa Aranda fighting for nature's rights

Rosa Aranda is currently the president of the Piwiri community It is common for women to paint their faces with the boiled seeds of a plant growing in the forest According to Rosa it is only since five years that the community is aware of the pollution caused by the petroleum company that is extracting for 32 years already in the nearby territories of Curaray She is fighting to prevent the re-opening of another plant located in the territory of Moretecocha of which Piwiri is past Piwiri 24-4-2023