Albertina Nakale WINDHOEK - The commercial exploitation of indigenous plants such as hoodia, devil’s claw, marula and !nara, as well as the associated traditional knowledge of Namibian rural communities without fair compensation, continues to be a major concern for government. This is the view of Environment and Tourism Minister Pohamba Shifeta who said communities that have nurtured these resources and preserved the knowledge associated with their use for centuries have not benefited fairly, both from the resources themselves and the knowledge they possess of these resources. “In terms of our community producers, we know companies often have better negotiation skills, market knowledge and legal assistance than their local level suppliers. This results in an unbalanced bargaining process and makes our rural communities vulnerable to potential exploitation and economic abuse,” he said. If is for this reason that the environment ministry, with the support of other institutions such as the Office of the Attorney General, undertook the decision to empower communities with legal and technical support that would ensure that communities are able to negotiate better with international companies. It is hoped that this support would allow the communities to have a fair and equitable share in the benefits that result from the utilisation of Namibia’s biological and genetic resources, Shifeta said. The Ministry of Environment and Tourism is this week discussing the Access to Biological and Genetic Resources and Associated Traditional Knowledge Act at a workshop in Windhoek, which is where the minister spoke. The workshop started yesterday and aims to finalise regulations in the Act, which will allow for access to biological or genetic resources, and associated traditional knowledge in rural areas to be regulated in order to benefit local communities. The commercialisation of biological and genetic resources involves a diverse range of stakeholders, from local communities and regulatory authorities to academic institutions and often trans-national businesses and investors. This, says the minister, requires frameworks for improved regulation, collaboration and cooperation in an international context, which is embodied in the ‘Access and Benefit Sharing or ABS’ concept. The Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their utilisation, which entered into force in 2014, is the main international instrument for ABS. Namibia acceded to the Nagoya Protocol in May 2015 and Shifeta said the government views this protocol as an important instrument in ensuring that the conservation and sustainable utilisation of biological resources results in fair and equitable benefits to rural communities. Last year, Namibia promulgated the Access to Biological and Genetic Resources and its Associated Traditional Knowledge Act, No. 2 of 2017 (ABS Act). The Act intends to regulate access to biological and genetic resources and its associated traditional knowledge, including innovation, practices and technologies associated with the rights of local communities over these resources. It also aims at protecting the rights of local communities over biological and genetic resources and its associated traditional knowledge and to ensure that a mechanism for a fair and equitable benefit sharing is in place. Against this background, Namibia yesterday held a final consultative workshop on the draft regulations of the Access to Biological and Genetic Resources and its Associated Traditional Knowledge Act, No. 2 of 2017. Shifeta said since most of the biological diversity with valuable genetic resources is found in rural areas under the jurisdiction of traditional leaders, their involvement, therefore, and the benefits of traditional communities in this specific matter cannot be overemphasisd.
New Era Reporter
2018-06-12 08:45:17 5 months ago