Bugs, Sweat, and Tea

I am living in the Ecuadorian Amazon for ten weeks working with indigenous Kichwa farmers and a tea company called Runa. The majority of Kichwa farmers live in poverty and are facing the loss of their culture as well as deforestation as they are forced to cut down the forest in order to make enough money to live. I am an intern at FundaciĆ³n Runa, the non-profit partner of Runa which is a socially-responsible company that attempts to solve these problems by selling guayusa in the US. Guayusa is a tea-like energy drink that has been grown by Kichwa farmers for thousands of years but has never before been sold commercially. Runa pays well for the guayusa they buy and puts an additional 15% of every purchase into a fund that is controlled by an elected committee of farmers. FundaciĆ³n Runa teaches the farmers about organic practices and how to increase production to increase income, researches better ways to grow guayusa, provides scholarships to Kichwa leaders, monitors Runa's effects, and much more. By turning guayusa into a cash crop Runa helps bring additional income to the indigenous farmers to increase their standard of living and decrease deforestation while preserving and spreading the Kichwa culture around the world.

I am living with the other interns in the city of Tena. My time is spent at the house, at the office in Archidona, or in the communties. My primary job is surveying farmers about their needs to assess the situation and help the committee determine the best way to spend their funds.


  • Maya Manning | August 10th, 2012
    I cannot help but see strong similarities between Kichwa community life in the Ecuadorian Amazon and dorm life in United States universities. Some reasons why: 1. The houses: Kichwa houses are small and fit many people. People who have received...
  • Maya Manning | July 31st, 2012
    When you are living on the edge of the Amazon jungle, there are bound to be certain mysteries that occur. "Why is my computer no longer functioning?", "Why is the sink exploding?", or "Did that bug just spit acid?" for example. When you have lived...
  • Maya Manning | June 19th, 2012
    Culture shock is fading and I have begun to observe and appreciate the cultural differences around me. In particular, I have started noting the intersection between the traditional Kichwa culture and the more modern Westernized Ecuadorian culture...
  • Maya Manning | June 14th, 2012
    There are luxuries I am used to that I was not aware are considered luxuries. Luxury #1: Temperatures gauges on showers There is hot water. There is only hot water. Scalding water to be precise. Lack of water pressure I was prepared for. Hot water...