Sanne Derks (b. 1979) is a documentary photojournalist and anthropologist from the Netherlands, mainly focusing on social issues in Latin-America and Spain. Themes include climate-change resilience, water- housing and human-rights. She holds a...
Focus:Journalist, Reporter, Photography
Postgraduate in Photojournalism, Universidad Autónoma, Barcelona
Ph.D. Cultural Anthropology and Gender Studies, Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands
Master in the Psychology of Culture and Religion, Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands
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, in the northern province of Sucumbíos, Ecuador. The community won a historic battle against mining companies and their Aï 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
Mother Maité 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.
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
As in most houses in the Amazone, the sink in the house of Alexandra Narvaez is placed outside. Houses, made of wood from the Amazone, are open, without windows nor doors. It is a clear example of 'Sumak Kawsay' living in harmony with nature. Sinangoe, 5-3-2023
Rupay Gualingas is presenting a radio program at Radio Station 'La Voz de Confeniae' in Union Base, Puyo. This radio station is operating since 2019 and wants to give a voice to the indigenous communities in the provinces Pastaza, Napo, Moreno Santiago and Tangurangua. The main objective is to speak out against extraction and to transmit information on the consequences of mining and petroleum activities in the region. According to Rupay: 'Extraction brings death, hunger and sickness. As a reporter I can contribute to the fight against extraction and for conservation of the Amazone.' Union Base, Puyo, 18-4-2023
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
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
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.
Salomé Aranda (waving) waves at her family members from Piwiri, who brought her to the neighboring community of where her current partner lives. The petroleum activities in the area cause pollution in the rivers and in the soil, threatening the lives of the people in these communities, who are dependent on fishing, hunting and small-scaled agriculture to sustain themselves.
'Mechero' -gas burner, near Shushufindi in north Ecuador. The gases cause large pollution in the air, that not only is transported by air, but also comes down with the rain on the soil producing food. Shushufindi, 2-3-2023
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
Women are sharing a dinner in Piwiri. There is a strong community sense between the women in Piwiri. Women are more inside the community as they travel less, and are taking care of the children. As no preconception is used deep down in the Amazone, most women are being mothers young. According to Salomé, middle, it also makes them strong fighters: 'We as women want to protect the Amazone so our children will have a safe and healthy space to live in the future.' Piwiri, 23-4-2023
An indigenous female leader is taking the stage during the three-year electoral congress to choose the new president of the Pastaza Kichua communities. Although most presidents are still male, female leaders have increased in the past years. For instance, Diana Tanquillo, with the green shirt, is the first female president in Arajuno. Rhetoric in speeches is full of phrases against extraction in the area, the major treats for the indigenous communities in the area. Canelos, 15-4-2023
A camera trap is installed by Edison Lucitante to monitor if people are invading the Sinangoe territories. Though court ruled a victory for the Sinangoe Nation and mining is prohibited in the protected ancestral territories, their rights are not always respected. The indigenous guard monitors the territory to see if people are entering their territories illegally.
'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
Horses carry balsa wood from the forest to the road for sale near Arajuno. Apart from mining and petroleum extraction, another treat is deforestation. After the government or oil company has constructed a road in the Amazone, new influences come and change the biodiverse and cultural landscape of the communities. By making the lands accessible, also people from outside come to find a way to make a living. Arajuno, 21-4-2023
Irena Alvarado is washing gold in a hand-made attribute for traditional mining. The Tzawata-community is literally living on top of a gold-mountain. They are in a 15 year long legal battle against mining companies -shifting names every moment- as the company claims ancestral lands in order to prevent the mining companies from re-entering their territories. Tzawata, 28-4-2023
A road is being constructed between the village of Arajuno and the Waorani-community of Tonanpare. The road has caused tensions and conflicts in the Tonampare community. Although it might benefit the community for access, people are also worried about the impact it has on the biodiversity, that it might lead to deforestation and negative influences in the community, such as alcoholism (a large problem in the Amazone). Tonampare, 28-4-2023
Salomé Aranda, former president in Piwiri, filed a demand against the petroleum company in 2019. Instead of stopping extraction, the petroleum company stopped the revenues to the community. Salomé was treatened and had to flee her community as her life was in danger. She is an outspoken leader fighting against extraction and for women's rights in the Amazone. Piwiri, 24-4-2023
Sumak Kawsay: The Rights of Nature in the Ecuadorian Amazone
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.
Co-funded by Dutch Fund for In-Depth Journalism and Stichting Oog op de Natuur [Foundation Eye on Nature]