South Africa: strengthening indigenous governance, benefit sharing and capacity building for traditional phytomedicines

South Africa: strengthening indigenous governance, benefit sharing and capacity building for traditional phytomedicines

The UNDP-GEF Global ABS Project strengthens partnerships and coordination to increase dialogue, trust and support among governments, local and indigenous communities, scientists, academia and private sector to implement the Nagoya Protocol. In this sense, the UNDP GEF Global ABS Project helps countries to link nature, local and indigenous communities´ traditional knowledge and research on genetic resources to develop ABS Nature based solutions for sustainable development.

This is the case of the bio discovery developed in South Africa under the UNDP-GEF Global ABS Project´s support, which provides ABS nature solutions oriented to Ssustainable Development Goal 17 (Partnerships for the Goals).

A bioprospecting permit was awarded to HG&H pharmaceuticals (Pty) Ltd by the south African Department of Environmental Affairs allowing it to commercialize the medicinal properties of kanna. The company acknowledges the fundamental role indigenous knowledge plays as a departure point for new product discovery and innovation. It is an acknowledgement that was formalized through a landmark benefit sharing agreement with the San Raad van Suid Afrika (San Council of South Africa) jointly with the Paulshoek and the Nourivier communities. This agreement marked Africa’s first prior informed consent and benefit sharing agreement with an indigenous community for the commercialization of an indigenous medicinal plant. HG&H, a local innovative pharmaceutical and natural ingredients company, conducted research and development on kanna and developed a quality-based extract called Zembrin®, which has mood-enhancing, anxiety-reducing and cognitive-function-enhancing activities.

The benefit sharing agreement concluded with the south African san communities is based on unconditional monetary benefits. since 2010, hg&h pharmaceuticals (pty) ltd has shared more than 10 million rand (i.e., us$660 000) in financial benefits with the community. in terms of the agreement, the company shares 6% of all income from Zembrin® with the south African san communities, which, in turn, allocate 50% of their share with the villagers of paulshoek and nourivier in the namaqualand region of the northern cape province. it is in these communities that the ethnobotanical research was conducted. As a result, Zembrin® is the only Sceletium product to carry the logo of its indigenous beneficiaries, the San Raad van Suid Afrika.

Due to the recent drought in the northern cape, the community of paulshoek has used some of its proceeds from this project to install a borehole for the benefit of all members of the community. their knowledge exchange programme and the effort to plough back into the bush to conserve nature is a clear illustration of sdg  17, partnership for the goals, (climate action) in action.

Learn more about this biodiscovery case here.

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