Meet Environmental Hero Nemonte Nenquimo

November 30, 2020

Amazon Frontlines

Photo credit: Amazon Frontlines

As many of you know, we are passionate about protecting the earth here at Earthwise Beauty, and are always working to reduce our environmental footprint, create truly sustainable products, and give back to nonprofit groups that are doing important work in this area.

We’re encouraged by the many people and organizations that share our commitment to safeguarding the earth, and none more so than Waiorani leader Nemonte Nenquimo. A truly inspiring figure in the indigenous rights movement and in the fight to protect the Amazon, Nenquimo was the first female president of the Waiorani of Pastaza province, has been named one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People, and is the co-founder of the indigenous-led nonprofit organization Ceibo Alliance. She was recently awarded the 2020 Goldman Environmental Award, which honors the achievements and leadership of grassroots environmental activists from around the world, and pledged to donate the full $200,000 prize to the indigenous movement to protect the Amazon.

Nenquimo is from the Amazon region of Ecuador, which is one of the ten most biodiverse countries on earth. The rainforests there are complex ecosystems that not only support countless species of plant and animal life, but also significant populations of indigenous communities. Over the past several decades, oil exploration, logging, and road building have had a disastrous impact on this region, causing massive deforestation, contamination, and human rights abuses while displacing indigenous people from their ancestral homelands.

Nenquimo’s Ceibo Alliance is a unique nonprofit organization formed by members of the very communities it serves. The indigenous-led group is comprised of members of the Koran, Siona, Secoya, and Waiorani communities, and works to defend indigenous territory and cultural heritage and to build viable alternatives to rainforest destruction, all through project designed, developed, and  managed by the indigenous communities themselves. One of the things we find most inspiring about this group is that they see women as integral to a successful and sustainable economy, and are dedicated to strengthening the ties between generations in order to preserve traditional medicinal wisdom, culture, and history. As they explain: “We want to revitalize our language, rescue the ancestral tradition and revalue it, so that our own practices, our memory and our wisdom, continue and are not lost” (alianzaceibo.org, translated from Spanish).

Nenquimo has worked directly with the Waorani to establish an independent, sustainable economic system that will help them maintain their independence from oil company handouts, including initiatives like a woman-led organic cacao and chocolate production business and the installation of new rainwater harvesting systems and solar panels. She also helped create a digital campaign under the slogan “Our Rainforest Is Not for Sale,” spearheaded petitions to the oil industry and the Ecuadorean government, and utimately helped bring the Waorani case to court, serving as the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against the Ecuadorean government. The courts ruled in the Waorani’s favor in April 2019, a ruling that helped protect 500,000 acres of Amazonian rainforest and indigenous territory from oil extraction, and set an important precedent for indigenous rights. Today, other tribes are following in her footsteps to protect additional tracts of rainforest from oil extraction.

We are proud to support the Ceibo Alliance through our contributions to one of their key partners, Amazon Frontlines. If you’d like to help us support this important cause, just use the promo code ForTheWorld’sForests each time you shop at Earthwise Beauty, and we’ll donate 10% of the value of your order (plus, as a thank you, you will receive 10% off your entire order, excluding shipping).

In a passionate letter to world leaders this past October, Nemonte Nenquimo wrote, “It took us thousands of years to get to know the Amazon rainforest. To understand her ways, her secrets, to learn how to survive and thrive with her. . . . I never had the chance to go to university, and become a doctor, or a lawyer, a politician, or a scientist. My elders are my teachers. The forest is my teacher. And I have learned enough (and I speak shoulder to shoulder with my Indigenous brothers and sisters across the world) to know that you have lost your way, and that you are in trouble (though you don’t fully understand it yet) and that your trouble is a threat to every form of life on Earth. . . . And so I say to all of you: the Earth does not expect you to save her, she expects you to respect her. And we, as Indigenous peoples, expect the same.”

You can read Nenquimo’s full letter here, and we hope you will join us in supporting this important cause and helping this brilliant activist and the many others like her who are working tirelessly to protect and preserve the Amazon.