The Waorani People’s historic victory to protect their ancestral lands from oil drilling

April 30, 2019

Update, September 2020: We are very proud that our All Eyes on the Amazon partner and Waorani leader Nemonte Nenquimo from Ecuador, who led her people’s historic victory against oil drilling on the Waorani territory, is on TIME Magazine’s 2020 list of the 100 most influential people in the world. 

On April 26, the Waorani People in Ecuador won a historic legal victory to protect 500,000 acres of their rainforest from oil extraction activities. The lawsuit was brought against three government bodies for conducting a faulty consultation process with the community before putting their territory up for concession in an international oil auction.

The ruling immediately suspends any possibility of opening the community’s land for oil exploration. It also sets an important precedent for other communities in the Amazon rainforest, that are trying to keep oil extraction out of their territories. This is a powerful win for indigenous rights, for the Amazon, and our climate. The Ecuadorian government has decided to appeal the court’s decision. Now is the time to keep the pressure on and demand respect for this ruling.

Defending ancestral lands

After years of community-led territorial mapping and mobilizing at the front lines, the Waorani people of Pastaza province united to defend one of the last oil-free, roadless areas of their ancestral territory. The Waorani’s lawsuit, jointly filed with Ecuador’s Ombudsman, sought to keep their lands free from resource extraction and set a precedent for other indigenous nations to do the same.

Our forest homeland is not an oil block, it is our life. Our land is not for sale.

In 2018, an auction of 16 new oil concessions covering roadless, primary forest was announced by the government. The region is home to some of the highest levels of biodiversity on the planet. The Waorani argued that the Ecuadorian government violated their right to previous consultation. “We will not allow the building of platforms or pipelines or roads. We do not recognize what the government calls Oil Block 22. Our forest homeland is not an oil block, it is our life. Our land is not for sale.”

The Waorani also won the subsequent appeal. Now, the court’s final ruling states very clearly that their land belongs to them. Half-a-million acres of primary rainforest is protected from oil drilling. The ruling sets an important precedent for Indigenous rights across the region.

The Waorani people’s resistance continues to inspire Indigenous communities in the Amazon and beyond as a powerful example of Indigenous-led action against fossil fuel extraction. We support our partners, the Waorani People, Alianza Ceibo, and Amazon Frontlines in their fight to permanently protect this land. Read more at

All Eyes on the Amazon

Indigenous People and local communities living in the Amazon are key to ending deforestation and protecting the rainforest sustainably. All Eyes on the Amazon, a program co-led by Hivos and Greenpeace, supports them in their fight. It combines state-of-the-art technology, such as satellites and drones, and local knowledge on the ground to detect deforestation and environmental degradation, record it and eventually stop it.