Indigenous communities leading the way at the 2023 Lush Spring Prize

When the Ecuadorian government announced that they would allow oil companies to drill in over 230,000 hectares of indigenous Waorani territory, many Waorani communities were horrified. Their lands were not for sale, and there had been no proper consultation.

“The Waorani territory was a place of prosperity for a long time. However, 500 years of colonisation, and in particular the last 60 years of extractivism, have resulted in unprecedented cultural assimilation and exploitation of our soil and forests, stripping us of the resources most critical to our survival.”

Silvana, president of Organización Waorani de Pastaza (OWAP), explains how their alliance came together. Thirty Waorani communities from the province of Pastaza joined in 2018 to create OWAP, and together they led a successful legal case against the Ecuadorian government. It was a historic moment which set a precedent for environmental justice and the preservation of indigenous territories.

OWAP is one of the seventeen fantastic organisations who have received an award for the 2023 Lush Spring Prize, a biennial celebration of people and organisations who are working to leave the world lusher that they found it. The Lush Spring Prize has been running in partnership with Ethical Consumer since 2017.

Each of the organisations who are receiving a Lush Spring Prize are showcasing how to create meaningful, regenerative change in their communities and contexts. They go beyond sustainability by taking holistic approaches to building the health of ecology and social systems.

Now in its fifth cycle, the Lush Spring Prize has distributed over £1,000,000 to regenerative organisations around the world. This year, in addition to the main £200,000 prize fund contributed by Lush, the Spring Prize is partnering with Be The Earth Foundation and the Permaculture Magazine to host two special awards, an Ancient and Indigenous Wisdom Award, and a Permaculture Magazine award.

The Ancient and Indigenous Wisdom award was co-created in acknowledgement that Indigenous communities are stewards of the vast majority of the planet’s biodiversity. Anne Rammi, one of the judges on the panel representing Be The Earth Foundation, explained, “I will never forget that one applicant said in their application that, ‘regeneration is a term that people from the Global North use to describe what us indigenous people have already been doing.’ We need to listen and learn. We need to get back to our healthy relationship with nature.”

This year, acknowledging the importance of celebrating indigenous-led regenerative work, Lush match funded the Ancient and Indigenous Wisdom fund amount and doubled the pot. As well as this special award, a number of other indigenous-led organisations have received core Lush Spring Prize awards.

Simon Mitambo from African Biodiversity Network, a previous recipient of the Lush Spring Prize, says, “the solutions lie deep in our cultures, in the way we work to connect with our ancestral wisdom.” Simon explains how often, the ‘Global North’ image of development can infiltrate funding programmes, meaning that development agencies simply try to replicate ‘the West’. Rather than exporting European or Global North solutions around the world, Simon instead encourages to work with local knowledge and expertise. “Bank on what the locals are doing on the ground, using Indigenous knowledge.”

Listening and learning from the recipients of the 2023 Lush Spring prize, we are invited to consider - how can we all strengthen our relationship with the living world, and leave the world lusher, wherever we go? How might we encourage our governments and policymakers to acknowledge and strengthen traditional land rights of indigenous communities?

Silvana from OWAP says, “the rescue of our ancestral knowledge and practices is crucial for the protection of our territories, since the same ancestral wisdom, transmitted from generation to generation for thousands of years, is the same that teaches how to coexist with nature and strengthen that spiritual connection with the territory.”

Find out more about the Lush Spring Prize and read about the full shortlist of applicants at

Homepage - Indigenous communities leading the way at the 2023 Lush Spring Prize