Pimenta Baniwa is a blend of dozens of varieties of Capsicum peppers that the Baniwa people cultivate using traditional, organic, and sustainable methods. All production value from cultivation to harvest to processing and packaging is performed by Baniwa women, who thereby retain a large percentage of the retail price of the product. The Baniwa are natives of the rainforests in the border region of Brazil, Colombia, and Venezuela, a remote part of the Amazon and Orinoco River Basins.
Along the Içana River and its tributaries, the Baniwa people have been cultivating some 70 local varieties of five species of Capsicum peppers, which they turn into a spice blend called jiquitaia. Known throughout Brazil as Pimenta Baniwa, this spice blend received international attention when it was mentioned in the Alex Atala episode of the Netflix series Chef’s Table.
See Alex Atala visit the Baniwa here.
As seen in the Chef’s Table episode, Baniwa women have been cultivating these peppers in their gardens using traditional, organic, and sustainable methods for centuries. Jiquitaia is a fundamental part of their culture and seeds are passed down through generations. The ancestral practice of making the spice blend has changed little: after harvesting the peppers, they are dried for approximately two days, then crushed.
ISA, a Brazilian NGO that supports indigenous community-based initiatives throughout the Amazon and elsewhere in Brazil, has helped the Baniwa commercialise jiquitaia, helping build several processing centres, each of which are co-managed by a man and woman chosen by different Baniwa communities. They have modernized the process so that each jar is traceable to the batch and the date it was packed and the name of the women and community producing it. Each jar has an average of 12 varieties of chilies, from a universe of 74 varietals of peppers grown by the Baniwa women. In the end, approximately 28 percent of the retail price of Pimenta Baniwa ends up in the hands of then Baniwa women, who invest it in their community.