Indigenous land-use systems : evidence from the Pueblo Kichwa de Rukullakta
There is a growing recognition of the importance of indigenous lands to the fate of tropical forests around the world. Indigenous lands are especially critical to the Amazon as they make up a substantial portion of the region. Despite this recognition, most recent research has focused on colonists and little is known about the contemporary land-use systems of indigenous groups. This thesis examines the land-use system of the Pueblo Kichwa de Rukullakta located in the western extreme of the Ecuadorian Amazon. Household-level data was collected and used to characterize land-use strategies, location of production, and household characteristics. Findings on household land-use strategies demonstrate the widespread cultivation of cacao in the area. The majority of households also produced traditional food crops like yuca and plantains. Surprisingly, hunting and cattle ranching were of minimal importance to the livelihoods of most households Observed Kichwa land-use patterns are compared to a generalized colonist land-use system to reveal similarities and differences. Most notable of these differences is the spatial organization of land tenure in which the majority of Kichwa households hold land in two locations within the territory. This spatial organization of land tenure appears to have roots in “traditional” methods of organizing land-use and may have important implications for understanding land-cover change in the region.