South Africa: A Cup of Rooibos Empowers Communities

South African rooibos (red bush) is caffeine-free and high in anti-oxidants and minerals.

The Khoi Khoi and San communities are set to benefit from the industry-wide benefit-sharing agreement (BSA) for traditional knowledge associated with Rooibos.

This follows the launch of the BSA for traditional knowledge associated with rooibos by Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Barbara Creecy, on Friday.

"Today is an auspicious day in the history of our country as we witness the signing and approval ceremony for a unique agreement - one that benefits the Khoi and San communities of South Africa. I am convinced that this agreement will serve as a base and example for many similar settlements to be reached with local communities in future," said the Minister who was speaking at Yzerfontein in the Western Cape.

The Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries in 2011 was approached by the South African San Council on behalf of the San people of South Africa, expressing concerns about inadequate acknowledgment, recognition, and protection of their interests.

A subsequent consultative study concluded in 2015 found that the San and Khoi-Khoi hold the traditional knowledge for rooibos and honeybush.

The outcome of the probe meant that as the rightful owners of these rights, these communities would receive benefits from the commercial utilisation of species in the development of new products such as tea, medicines, food flavourings and cosmetics in terms of National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act, 2004 (NEMBA) and the Bioprospecting, Access and Benefit Sharing (BABS) Regulations.

"What the negotiations have produced is a one-year pilot through which the Khoi and San communities will receive 1.5% of the farm gate price from the processors of rooibos in the form of an annual levy.

"The farm gate price, which does not include VAT, is the price that is paid by the processors of a product to the farmers who grow, harvest or ferment and dry rooibos. This money is being paid for the use of the traditional knowledge associated with rooibos," said Creecy.

At present, the overall value of the 1.5% benefit amounts to around R12 million per year.

"To reach that amount we calculated that if 15 million kilograms of rooibos is harvested and sold at R60 per kilogram it would come to around R 12 million - all to be paid by the rooibos industry to the Khoi and San communities," she said.

The Minister said monies received will be paid into trust accounts opened by the San and Khoi communities to ensure that it is properly managed.

"Benefits include the creation of jobs, and the upliftment of some 160 small-scale farmers who belong to the Wupperthal cooperative in the Western Cape and the Heiveld co-op in the Northern Cape," she said.

Meanwhile the pilot phase of the BSA will allow government to gather accurate data on the dynamics of the rooibos industry.

"This includes information on opportunities for transformation, the composition of the farmers and other role-players across the value chain, and market and trade information related to the sale of rooibos at local and international levels."

"During this phase government will also monitor the management and distribution of financial benefits received by the Khoi and San communities, as well as any benefits for the conservation and sustainable use of rooibos species," she said.

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