the farmers


The Farmers

The Amazonian Kichwas normally refer to themselves as Runas, which simply means men. They speak an Amazonian dialect of Kichwa, the Ecuadorean member of the Quechua language family, which was spread around much of Andean South America by the Inca Empire, and is still the most widely spoken indigenous language group in Latin America today. In fact, some sources estimate a total of 10 million speakers. In both Quechua and Kichwa, the language is known as Runa Shimi, which literally translates as man’s tongue or mouth.

There are about 60,000 to 100,000 Kichwas living in the Ecuadorian lowlands, organized into approximately 450 communities. These communities are spread across the Amazon provinces of Napo, Sucumbíos, Orellana and Pastaza, with the greatest numbers in the Province of Napo. Today, many Kichwas also live in urban areas in and around the cities of Tena, Puyo and Coca.

Most Kichwa families continue to live off subsistence farming, hunting, fishing, and gathering. Chacras, or forest gardens, are main sources of food. The Kichwa cultivate a variety of species including plantain, sweet manioc, sweet potato, taro, white maize, squash, peanuts, sugar cane, coffee, cacao, bananas, pineapples, small onions, papaya and chonta palm. More recently, activities such as cattle farming and ecotourism have come to play an important role in local economies.

Traditionally, chacras are subject to many rituals drawing on the Kichwa cosmology. These rituals must be respected in order to assure good output. During the last decades of the 20th Century, the Kichwa have rapidly become politically organized, with the aim of defending their collective and territorial rights. The Kichwa of Napo fall under the CONAKINO, who in turn are members of CONFENIAE (regional organization) and CONAIE (national movement).

The information above is sourced from the Payamino Project. For more information on Kichwa history and culture please visit