Berta Cáceres

Indigenous Rights Activist

2016
Champion of the Earth (Awarded posthumously)

Inspiration and Action

About Berta Cáceres

Our family hopes that this award will help make sure that Berta’s wonderful life as well as the struggle of our Lenca people is not forgotten, and that it will give heart to all those struggling for their environmental rights around the world. - Juan Manuel Caceres, brother.

Before her murder, Berta Cáceres threw her life into a tireless grassroots struggle for the rights of marginalized and poverty-stricken indigenous peoples in her native Honduras.

Her death in early 2016, aged 44, sparked an international outcry at the unacceptable levels of violence and intimidation facing environmental activists in many countries around the world.

At just 20, Cáceres had co-founded the Civic Council of Popular Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), an organization that advocates for the territorial rights of indigenous people in the Central American country.

She lent her considerable campaigning and networking skills to many social and environmental causes in her country, which suffers from some of the highest rates in the region of both poverty and violent crime.

Her defining struggle was against the $50 million Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam, which she said was being built without proper consultation with her indigenous Lenca community. The protests culminated in a 2013 blockade that halted construction work. International investors have since withdrawn from the project.

Community members worried that the dam would harm their livelihoods and deprive them of food, medicines and access to the river, which some of them consider sacred.

Cáceres, who won the Goldman Environmental Prize last year, had reported an increasing number of death threats before assailants broke into her home in the city of La Esperanza on 3 March and shot her to death.

According to Global Witness, 185 people across 16 countries were killed defending their land, forests and rivers against destructive industries in 2015 – the highest annual toll on record. Honduras – with at least 109 deaths between 2010 and 2015 – was the deadliest country of all.