Friday, March 1, 2024

Botswana developing access and benefit-sharing of genetic resources

In order to align the Nagoya Protocol in simpler terms and within the context of Botswana, natural resources such as medicinal plants were identified as an entry point for sustainable and fair utilisation of the products. 

Seven years after President Ian Khama signed the Nagoya Protocol, its implementation seems likely to happen. A gathering that took place last week Wednesday saw the discussions on the protocol take shape. The Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits (ABS)Arising from their Utilization  to the Convention on Biological Diversity is a supplementary agreement to the Convention on Biological Diversity(CBD). The Protocol was designed to create greater legal certainty and transparency for both providers and users of genetic resources by: establishing more predictable conditions for access to genetic resources; helping to ensure benefit-sharing when genetic resources leave country of endowment.  

It emerged during the discussion that a lot is known about natural resources especially by people in rural areas who rely on them for a living. That being the case though it is said that much less is understood around the legality of such resources. Unregistered Indigenous Knowledge (IK) was identified as a challenge. This has resulted in cases where some medicinal plants like Hoodia and Sengaparile landed in European countries and are now patent products of such countries. This trend, regarded irreversible, was blamed on researchers who are said to have extracted the resources from their origins, putting their ‘custodians’ at a disadvantage.   

While locally litigation cases on the patenting issue have not taken place, it was revealed by Dr Claudio Chiarolla, Regional Project Specialist- United Nations Development Program/Global Environment Facility (UNDP/GEF) Global ABS, that several of them have been held in other countries. She attributed this to those countries having implemented the protocol. Tsholofelo Dichaba, a researcher from the University of Botswana indicated that a case was heard in South Africa between the San of the Kgalagadi, through the International Human Rights Non Governmental Organization (NGO), and researchers over a Kgalagadi medicinal plant.
“The San managed to win some percentage of exclusive rights for the product. There is likely to be another legal battle on another Kgalagadi plant-wild water melon- if as a nation we are to be serious and work as a team to tackle injustices our communities are entangled in,” said Dichaba. 

The Nagoya Protocol provides a transparent legal framework for the effective implementation of one of the three objectives of the CBD: the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of genetic resources. By helping to ensure benefit-sharing, the Nagoya Protocol creates incentives to conserve and sustainably use genetic resources, and therefore enhances the contribution of biodiversity to development and human well-being.



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