The rooibos industry made history this week with a pay-out of R12.2 million to Mzansi’s Khoi and San communities as the rightful traditional knowledge holders of rooibos.
According to the SA Rooibos Council, this was the first pay-out of an access and benefit-sharing agreement that was signed with the National Khoi and San Council and the South African San Council in 2019.
As South Africa is a signatory to the Nagoya Protocol on indigenous biological resources, negotiations on the agreement began in 2014 already when the South African government recognised the Khoi and San communities as the rightful holders of traditional knowledge on rooibos.
The negotiations resulted in a benefit-sharing levy of 1.5% of the farm gate price of rooibos being paid into a trust every year, which was now paid out for the first time following a lengthy, but necessary, administrative process to ensure financial propriety, the Rooibos Council says in a press statement.
The agreement is the first of its kind in the world as it involves not only specific companies and traditional knowledge holders, but the entire South African rooibos industry and all rooibos sales, levied through one process.
Upliftment of Khoi and San communities
The National Khoi and San Council and the South African San Council, who respectively represent the Khoi and San communities, will independently decide on the use of the money.
It is primarily intended for upliftment, the Rooibos Council says. An annual report, detailing the distribution of the money, will be submitted to the department of forestry, fisheries and the environment to ensure complete transparency.
Martin Bergh, chairperson of the South African Rooibos Council, says the aim of benefit-sharing funds is to contribute to poverty reduction, food security, social development and biodiversity conservation, to which the industry remains fully committed.
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