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KICHWA WOMEN COMMUNITY PROJECT

Kichwa - FEEL THE AMAZON - Anakonda Amazon Cruises

Kichwa Indigenous Community runs two women projects of sustainable tourism that protect the rainforest from deforestation. These projects are located on the northern banks of the Napo river: Mandi Wasi in El Pilche and Sani Warmi in Sani. Warmis (women) receive tourists in their community houses and share their traditions, delicacies, and lifestyle.

In this visit, our guests are greeted at the entrance of the community by one of the women who along with the guides introduce guests to the purpose and mission of the organization which provides job opportunities for local women as an alternative source of the communities’ income instead of ancestral practices of hunting and deforestation.

After the brief introduction, visitors are led up a beautiful entrance with mud and wood steps into an octagonal hut. The thatch roof is made of palm leaves and the supports of the hut are made from chonta trees. 

The women boil guayusa leaves in a large bowl and prepare cups of warm guayusa tea for visitors to try. Served on a platter in crafted cups, this tea is vital for the Kichwa people who drink it every morning with their family as they sit around the kitchen. Guayusa tea contains caffeine, providing energy for the tasks of the day. The locals also believe that guayusa tea protects them from insects and snakes. These early morning teas happen before the sun rises around 4 a.m. This is where the elders pass on their knowledge to their children and plan for the day. 

After tea, our hostess takes us for a walk to the center of the community. Along the way you can see armies of ants carrying leaves as they go. In the center of the community, there is a large soccer field. Every Sunday, men and women from all over the area gather here to play and watch games. You can also see the school and living quarters surrounding the field. 

Eighty children attend school, and only two teachers teach classes in Spanish and Kichwa. Students come from around the area and arrive at the community in a “school boat” instead of a school bus.

Around the corner, the hostess brings you to a small area where you will find a cocoa fruit held with a sharp three-foot stick. It is your target! You get to shoot a dart from an authentic Kichwa blowgun. Called “pukuna” in the Kichwa language, this gun is for hunting animals only, not for war. Sloths, anteaters, and monkeys are all potential targets. The blowgun is made of palm wood and wrapped in a natural tape sealed with beeswax. The darts are made of palm leaves. Kichwas use a piranha’s mandible to make an incision on the dart to sharpen it and mark the poisonous tip from the rest of the dart. The poison is called curare and acts as a muscle relaxant that causes the inflicted animal to have a heart attack or respiratory failure. 

After you try your hand at the blowgun, guests head over to the kitchen. Here you see the women preparing some traditional amazonian delicacies for you to try. The guides give you an insight into the fire and other tools used in the kichwa kitchen. One of the women starts peeling yuca with a machete, then grates it with a prickly handle made from the palm into a bowl that looks like a little hollowed-out canoe. Chontacuro, sweet plantain, and maito (wrapped) fish are cooked over the fire while cups of chicha are passed around. This traditional fermented drink uses yuca and sweet potato as the main ingredients and has about four to five percent alcoholic. Kichwa people depend on chicha as alternative food when there isn’t plentiful food. Amazon is biologically rich, but the food is not abundant. It can be challenging to hunt animals, especially with how dense the forest it. Community members can eat and drink chicha for a few days when hunting efforts have fallen short. One of the women will display how they use a weaved basket to carry yuca, using a strap that they place on their forehead. 

After you’ve had your chicha, fish, sweet plantain, and for our more adventurous guests, the crispy chontacuro (beetle larva), you’ll have a chance to buy crafts and jewelry made by the women. They have a large assortment to choose from. Women are split up into groups and take shifts staying at this particular location. Most women in the Amazon don’t have the opportunity to hold their own job other than from their family tasks. Our guests’ visit contribute to them.