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South Africa: Legal recognition of indigenous knowledge

August 22 2013
On August 19 a historical agreement to share benefits was signed between indigenous San and Khoi khoi groups and the pharmaceutical company, Cape Kingdom Nutraceuticals in South Africa.

Cape Kingdom Nutraceuticals is a pharmaceutical company that processes Buchu, a small shrub endemic to the Western Cape used for its essential oils. Buchu’s medicinal qualities are associated with the traditional knowledge of the Khoi khoi and San peoples.

The landmark deal that has been signed confirms that the two indigenous groups are ‘legally entitled to a fair and equitable share of the benefits that result from the commercial development of the buchu plant’. This deal is an acknowledgement of the San and the Khoi khoi’s knowledge of the medicinal plant predates that of any subsequent inhabitants of South Africa.

It is all too rare for a private company to recognize, especially financially, traditional knowledge and the intellectual property rights of indigenous peoples. Under the benefit sharing agreement with Cape Kingdom Nutraceuticals, the Khoi khoi and San communities will receive 3 percent of the profits related to Buchu products.

Cape Kingdom Nutraceuticals also commits to share its knowledge of the commercial use of the plant with the indigenous communities in exchange for the San and Khoi khoi endorsing the products.