On the 27th of July 2012, the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Ms Edna Molewa officially awarded seven bioprospecting permits to different organizations to engage in Bioprospecting activities at an event which was held in Komaggas Community Hall. At the award ceremony, Minister Molewa also launched South Africa’s Bioprospecting, Access and Benefit Sharing (BABS) Regulatory Framework: Guidelines for users, providers and regulators.
Komaggas is the western-most district of the Northern Cape Province and located in the Greater Richtersveld SKEP geographic priority area. It is an area that is rich in biodiversity, boasting rare plant species. In attendance at the event were several prominent government officials, representatives from the Komaggas community, the Khoi Heritage members, conservation agencies and mass media.
At the event Minister Molewa said “Historically, a lack of bioprospecting policy framework and legislation both at national and international levels had permitted an almost unconstrained access to South African indigenous biological resources and indigenous knowledge. Consequently, traditional knowledge holders and providers of indigenous biological resources were not benefiting from the use of our indigenous biological resources and the associated indigenous knowledge.”
This is set to change as person may without a valid permit conduct commercial bioprospecting on any indigenous biological resource, or export any indigenous biological resources from South Africa for bioprospecting or any other kind of research.
Minister Molewa explained that the biodiversity economy, which is part of the green economy, was the country's 'competitive edge in growing our economy and addressing climate change adaptation.
The launched Guidelines document will act as a primary tool in assisting users, providers and regulators of indigenous biological resources and their associated traditional knowledge in understanding the legal requirements and their rights in terms of BABS regulations. The BABS Regulations came into effect on the 1st of April 2008. To date the Department has issued eight Bioprospecting permits, of which the first was handed over officially in 2010.
The seventh permit was awarded to Rapitrade 670 (Pty) Ltd for the extraction and purification of chemical compounds from the shrublet, Galenia Africana, better known as Kraalbos. The shrublet is predominantly found in the Northern Cape and will be used in the extraction and purification of chemical compounds for use in the agro-food and pharmaceutical markets.
As per regulations for BABS, the Komaggas community will benefit in monetary and non-monetary forms from the commercialization of their traditional knowledge of Kraalbos. The Komaggas community, who are providing access to the raw materials of Kraalbos, will be receiving both monetary and non-monetary benefits. Some of the benefits arising from the benefit sharing-and material transfer agreements will include the employment of Komaggas community members as project coordinators and harvesters; the collection of a pre-determined, specified percentage of all distributable cash reserves after costs at the end of each financial year to beneficiaries and the purchase of harvested Kraalbos from Komaggas farmers.
Furthermore, as per the regulations for BABS, a Section 21 company has been established for the Komaggas community to receive 5% of all distributable cash reserves after costs at the end of each financial year, or at such a time as deemed appropriate by the directors of Rapitrade 670 (Pty) Ltd.
The Khoi Heritage Foundation who is representing the holders of traditional knowledge about the Kraalbos will also receive one percent of all distributable cash reserves after costs at the end of each financial year, or at such a time as deemed appropriate by the directors of Rapitrade 670 (Pty) Ltd.
This event demonstrated the role of the biodiversity economy in improving livelihoods, especially for rural communities as Komaggas.