History was made this past week when the Rooibos industry disbursed the first round of benefit-sharing funds to the National Khoi and San Council and the South African San Council as part of an Access and Benefit-sharing (ABS) agreement that was signed between the parties in 2019.
To ensure financial propriety, a lengthy, but necessary administrative process preceded the R12,2 million payout.
As a signatory to the Nagoya Protocol, South Africa requires all who trade in indigenous biological resources, such as Rooibos, to share benefits with traditional knowledge holders in a fair and equitable way.
Negotiations between the parties began as far back as 2014, when the Khoi and San were recognised by the South African government as the rightful traditional knowledge holders of Rooibos.
The Rooibos ABS agreement is a first-of-its-kind in the world. Other agreements involved specific companies and traditional knowledge holders, whereas this agreement encompasses the entire industry, ensuring all volumes of Rooibos sold are levied through one process.
The Rooibos industry – represented by the SA Rooibos Council (SARC) confirmed that a benefit-sharing levy of 1.5% of the farm gate price of Rooibos will be paid out into a trust annually.
The use of the funds will be independently decided by the National Khoi and San Council and South African San Council, who respectively represents the Khoi and San. Its use is primarily intended for the upliftment of these communities. An annual report, detailing the distribution of funds, will be submitted to the DFFE to ensure complete transparency.
Martin Bergh, chairperson of the SARC says the aim of benefit-sharing funds is to contribute to poverty reduction, food security, social development and biodiversity conservation, which the industry remains fully committed to.
More about the Nagoya Protocol:
The Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization (ABS) to the Convention on Biological Diversity is a supplementary agreement to the Convention on Biological Diversity (1992). The Protocol requires countries that have ratified the agreement to share benefits arising from the utilisation of genetic resources in a fair and equitable way. The Nagoya Protocol entered into force on 12 October 2014 with South Africa as a Party to the Protocol. Under the Protocol, South Africa is obliged to ensure measures for Access to genetic resources and Benefit Sharing arising from their utilisation.
In South Africa these measures are incorporated in the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (NEMBA), specifically in Chapter 6: Bioprospecting, Access and Benefit Sharing. Chapter 6 of NEMBA requires that supply chain partners trading in indigenous biological resource must enter into an Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) Agreement with Traditional Knowledge holders.
The Department of Environmental Affairs’ implementation of the Bioprospecting, Access and Benefit-Sharing Amendment regulations as published in the Government Gazette on May 19, 2015: https://www.environment.gov.za/sites/default/files/legislations/bioprospecting_regulatory_framework_guideline.pdf
About the South African Rooibos Council (SARC):
The South African Rooibos Council (SARC) is an independent organisation, representing Rooibos processors, packers and branders. Its mission is to responsibly promote Rooibos and its attributes, while protecting the interests of the Rooibos consumer and industry stakeholders. SARC members represent more than 90% of the volume and value of the annual production and sales of Rooibos products.