On World Photography Day, we celebrate land and environmental defenders across the globe. These are people who are taking a stand against the governments and companies that try to steal their land and destroy the environment. Many have dedicated their lives to protect the planet against industries like mining, logging and large-scale agriculture – by organizing community meetings, taking part in protests, and trying to change policies and laws.
Since 2012, Global Witness has been documenting killings of and attacks against land and environmental defenders, in part using photography, to call on states and business to take action to keep people safe.
Members of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), an organization standing up to a damaging hydroelectric dam project on the community’s land. COPINH was headed by Berta Cáceres, an indigenous campaigner who was assassinated in her home in March 2016 after years of death threats.
Isela González leads Alianza Sierra Madre, an organisation that has defended indigenous rights in the Sierra Tarahumara region of Mexico for the last 20 years. She knows that the risks she faces are real. But she continues to support local indigenous communities in their struggle against the logging, mining and drug trafficking responsible for grabbing their land in Mexico without community consent.
Rinchin is an activist working for the rights of displaced people and the environment in Raigarh, India. She has been supporting local communities in their struggle against coal companies grabbing their land and causing health problems through pollution.
Lucas Jorge Garcia is a member of the Ixquisis Peaceful Resistance against the San Mateo Hydroelectric Project, in Ixquisis, Guatemala. Despite attacks and threats, his community is peacefully protesting against the dam project, which deprives the community of water and contaminates their food sources.
Cheryl Cagaanan’s house was destroyed during a demolition last year on her ancestral land in the Bukidnon province of Mindanao, in the Philippines. The land was leased to food giant Dole Philippines to develop banana plantations. Despite threats, harassment and displacement, her community is fighting to claim back their ancestral lands.