Vanilla is undoubtedly one of the most appreciated delicacies in the world. Its flavor is one of the few known as ‘universal,’ and its fragrance is unique. In Brazil, it is not traditional to cultivate vanilla, and the food and cosmetics industries end up using artificial flavors to emulate the product. This reality, however, must change soon, with the cultivation of the vanilla from Cerrado.

Vanillas from Cerrado are not called vanillas in other places of the globe, because of their native biome. Currently scientific, aromatic, and botanical studies are seeking to obtain this classification, and better understand the characteristics that define each species of vanilla found in the country. Some native vanillas collected in Goiás, Minas Gerais and around the Federal District are enormous, weighting almost 100 g while still green and measuring 29 cm in length.

In 2015, the project Baunilha do Cerrado was created by the ÁTA Institute, through a partnership with Associação Quilombo Kalunga, which represents the quilombola communities from Monte Alegre, Teresinha and Cavalcante. The project is supported by Fundação do Banco do Brasil, and FAO, and has as its initial goal to share with people techniques of cultivation, production and valorization of national products. So that these products can reach the market in order to generate income and social empowerment.

The central pillar of this project is vanilla. Its cultivation, in an agroforestry system, in quilombola lands. But the project also seeks to improve the cultivation of other products essential to the economy of these communities, such as cassava flour, a few oils and fruits from Cerrado. Besides that, through a partnership with Central do Cerrado, the project has managed to invest in vocational training for the people from the communities, especially women.

As an initial result, four species of vanilla from Cerrado, each with different qualities and aromatic potential, have already been cataloged and registered.
In 2018 the project signed an agreement with Embrapa for the research, cataloging and aromatic classification of Brazilian vanilla plants, not only those fom Cerrado, but also from the other biomes.