Rooibos tea and access and benefit-sharing for the Khoi-San, South Africa

Rooibos and Honeybush are two South African plants that are used as commercial commodities by big companies for pharmaceutical and cosmetic purposes, supplying a huge local and international rooibos tea industry.1 However they have both been used historically by the Khoi-San peoples of South Africa: for livelihoods, for medicinal, food and health purposes, for skin care and in other ways. In spite of this, for more than 100 years now, the tea trade has continued without recognition of the Khoi-San’s indigenous knowledge and the rights that accompany it.

The Khoi and San peoples (collectively known as Khoi-San)2 self-identify as indigenous peoples of South Africa and have occupied the region for thousands of years, but during apartheid they were forced into the racial category of “Coloured”. This was done intentionally to dispossess them of their land, culture, traditions, languages, heritage and natural resources, as well as their ethnic and indigenous identity. Official statistics in South Africa still reflect the apartheid typology of race and language and do not reflect the presence of Khoi-San people in South Africa. It is not surprising, therefore, that historically their property rights have been ignored. However with the Nagoya Protocol coming into force, the rooibos industry now has a legal obligation to share benefits with the Khoi-San community as the associated traditional knowledge holders. The South African government has conducted a study on the traditional knowledge associated with rooibos in South Africa, which confirmed that the original holders of knowledge on the use of rooibos were the Khoi and the San peoples. Their indigenous and genetic resources had been utilised for tea in the Western Cape for over 150 years. Rooibos and honeybush are examples of plants known to the Khoi-San long before European colonisation.

Most of the Khoi-San people have moved away from areas where rooibos grows naturally, but some of them have remained and are still practising the old and the new ways of harvesting and trading. Knowledge of the uses of the species is still passed orally from generation to generation, including harvesting and preparation practices.

The National Khoi and San Council (NKC) first became aware of Nestle’s intention to patent the results from their research on rooibos and honeybush through the work of Natural Justice (NJ) and the film they produced around this matter. The NKC has started to engage with our South African rooibos industry, with support from NJ and funding institutions such as OSISA3, to persuade them to recognise the indigenous knowledge of the Khoi-San peoples and pay benefits to these communities. The NKC and the San people, under the leadership of the South African San Council (SASC) and assisted by their legal representative Roger Chennells, negotiated benefit-sharing agreements around certain plant species (such as Hoodia). We then entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the National San Council (NSC) to establish a legal negotiating team consisting of members of both councils. Together we worked towards the goal of bringing the rooibos industry to the negotiation table.

Nestle approached the Khoi and San during 2014 for a South African product they intended to develop using rooibos. A benefit-sharing agreement was subsequently signed between Nestle and the NKC and the SASC. It was a big relief that Nestle was so willing to comply with their benefit-sharing obligations. Biopatenting is a very difficult issue, for we are not dealing with an isolated community; the impact is widespread to include all the Khoi-San communities. So it is difficult to visualise the impact biopatenting would have had.

For us the concepts of access and benefit-sharing that arise from the utilisation of indigenous/traditional knowledge play a vital role in post-apartheid South Africa’s restitution processes. They entail the restitution of the injustices of the past. For generations there was misappropriation of knowledge, and that must now be repaired. This issue is also inseparable from the issue of land rights. We also see rights related to access and benefit-sharing as part of a process of creating generational rights to guarantee that the descendants of the Khoi-San will always benefit from the traditional knowledge of their people.

Community-based documentation of positive contributions of traditional rotational farming to carbon sequestration and ecosystem resilience, Thailand

The Indigenous Knowledge and Peoples network (IKAP), a regional network of indigenous communities throughout mainland montane Southeast Asia, and the Inter Mountain Peoples’ Education and Culture in Thailand Association (IMPECT), a network of indigenous peoples in northern Thailand, have carried out detailed research during the past two decades in three areas in Chiang Mai province where rotational farming is practised. Rotational farming is an agroforestry practice where a selected patch of land is cleared and the vegetation is dried and then carefully burned. The land is then cultivated and, after harvesting, left fallow for a long period (generally seven to ten years) to regenerate. This practice is based on deep cultural and spiritual relationships between the people and the environment and follows many customary rules and regulations. The research done by IKAP and IMPECT involved community monitoring of Karen farming areas in Ban Mae Lan Kham 4 and Hin Lad Nai2 using a stock-based approach to analyse above-ground carbon. The net carbon storage from fallow fields covering 236 hectares that were left to recover for up to ten years accounted for 17,348 tonnes of carbon, while CO2 emissions from the burning of fields amounted to only 480 tonnes of carbon.  Thus the overall effect of rotational farming was a reduction in carbon emissions.

The research also documented a large number of edible plant species that grow naturally or are planted in each successive year during the seven to ten year fallow period, all of which contribute significantly to food security and sustainable livelihoods. In addition, various wild animal species were attracted to the fallow plots for food. Overall the research concluded that rotational farming stores much more carbon than it emits and contributes to sustainable livelihoods, food security, the resilience of agroforestry systems and increased biodiversity. 3

The research led to a change in government and media perspectives on rotational farming. In 2010 the Thai Government passed a Cabinet Resolution for the Revitalisation of the Karen Way of Life, thereby providing policy support for the maintenance and revitalisation of these important customary practices in northern Thailand.

Community-based vulnerability and resilience mapping and adaptation practices in the mangrove forests of the Sundarbans, Bangladesh

The communities around the Sundarbans are continuously struggling to sustain their livelihoods. Most of the community members are entirely dependent on the Sundarbans’ mangrove ecosystem but forest degradation (caused by overwhelming pressure on its resources), recurring cyclones 4, salinity intrusion, floods and other factors are contributing to increased vulnerability of the traditional resource users. With the support of the NGO Unnayan Onneshan, a local research team and the communities worked together to identify areas of vulnerability of traditional resource users and to map the current and potential threats. Elders and experienced honey collectors, fishermen, and collectors of golpata (Nypa palm fronds) collaborated to point out the areas that are most vulnerable to flooding and other threats. Resource collection areas were grouped into three zones: a green zone where resources are abundant, a blue zone where resources are decreasing, and a red zone where resources have decreased considerably. Factors were also identified relating to the drivers of resource degradation. The research data gathered were used to prepare vulnerability maps to indicate which areas need special conservation attention and which areas can be used for resource collection (and to what extent). These maps are used for advocacy with the forest departments, who often have a different view on the vulnerable areas and therefore implement inappropriate action.

The same research initiative also investigated community-based adaptations and listed their main features, limitations and opportunities. The study documented 47 adaptation practices that respond to livelihood and water scarcity and structural scarcity. The practices enhanced resilience to tropical cyclones, storm surges and salinity intrusion. For example, communities affected by natural disasters and climate change in coastal areas in Khulna, Satkhira and Bagerhat districts have attempted to cultivate mangrove species in swampy lands with brackish water, which are suffering from increased salinity and have become unproductive for food crop production. In their community-based mangrove forestry practices, which combine traditional knowledge and innovation, mangrove species are grown alongside production of fish, ducks and vegetables, leading to reduced pressure on the Sundarbans while also securing livelihoods through the generation of multiple incomes. Following small-scale advocacy programmes at the local level to popularise this agro-silvo-aquaculture model, many Bawalis (traditional woodcutters) have started similar practices in their private or leased land and have been able to improve their livelihood conditions.

Wapichan people’s plan to secure and care for their lands, Guyana

The Wapichan people live in the South Rupununi District of Guyana. The “Wapichan wiizi” (territory) is home to many animals, reptiles, plants, insects, birds, fishes and other water creatures, many of which are globally rare or endangered.2 The Wapichan territory contains many important cultural heritage sites for the communities, where stone axes, arrow heads, beads, pottery and rock carvings and burial grounds are found. The Wapichan have compiled a plan for the sustainable community-based use and development of their ancestral territory, which covers about 2.8 million hectares, for the benefit of present and future generations.2 The plan describes the multiple services, values and meanings that the territory provides. For instance, respect for spirit beings and their homes is essential for the wellbeing of the communities and the health and abundance of the fishes and game. The territorial management plan sets out common principles, goals, and customary laws on the responsible use of the land, forest, mountain, grassland and wetland ecosystems. It includes more than one hundred inter-community agreements on collective actions for sustainable land use, customary sharing of resources, community development and livelihood initiatives. It also details hundreds of local wildlife sites for community protection, including proposals to establish an extensive 1.4 million hectare Wapichan Conserved Forest covering old-growth rainforest in the eastern part of the territory.

Securing the Wapichan territory by obtaining its legal recognition is a major goal for the Wapichan and a prerequisite for fully realising and implementing their plans. The existing land titles are fragmented and do not cover the full extent of the areas traditionally used and occupied by the Wapichan people. Further the Wapichan territory is facing serious external pressures from illegal mining, cattle rustling, logging and encroachment from commercial hunting. To address these, the Wapichan have developed a community-based system to detect and document such pressures as well as to monitor ecosystem health (for example water quality) and land use change.3 4

The Wapichan have initiated active dialogue with relevant government departments, agencies and commissions to explain their plans for continued community-based care of their ancestral areas. The Wapichan use their own maps and photographic and geo-referenced information, and data on traditional use of the land, to support their land claims and to point out where the tenure gaps are. These initiatives have led to formal talks between the communities and the government about actions to secure their land and forests legally, and to prevent and suspend industrial logging and mining concessions on Wapichan land.

The story of the Potato Park

We are potato farmers and papa arariwa (guardians of the native potato), passionate in the conservation of our native potato diversity now and for future generations. I live in the Community of Paru Paru. My community is one of the six that make up the Potato Park, established in the year 2000 in collaboration with Asociación ANDES.5 Our home is near Pisaq, Cusco, in the heart of the Sacred Valley of the Incas.

The Potato Park is an Indigenous Biocultural Territory. We call it “Papa Ayllu” because it is modelled on the Andean Ayllu system2, which is a holistic community where humans (and domesticated species), the wild, and the sacred, live together in harmonious and reciprocal co-existence. This model is key for maintaining the habitats and the evolutionary processes that have created the potato germplasm. The Ayllu model helps us to maintain potato genetic diversity along with other domesticated and wild species and the diverse habitats where they thrive. In turn this helps to maintain healthy wildlife and pollinators, and we have better decomposition of organic matter and soil fertility.

My land, Peru, is a territory blessed with diversity. Our mountains have marked variations in elevation and microclimates. The efforts of our ancestors have made this land one of the world’s most important centres of plant domestication and diversification. We have adapted and farmed diverse crops in all altitudes3. For us, however, the potato is the most important food crop. Over 2,000 different varieties are known to our peoples in Southern Peru alone. At the outset of the Potato Park initiative we collected 778 varieties from our own and surrounding communities; later we added 85 varieties through community to community exchanges and donations. The Park now has a total collection of 1,430 potato cultivars, 410 of which were incorporated through a Repatriation Agreement signed with the International Potato Centre (CIP) in 2004. This agreement led to the restitution of the diversity of the Park and also to recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights relevant to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.

Other crops in the collection include unique Andean tubers and grains. The Park harbours six of the nine existing cultivated potato species, two semi-cultivated species and six wild relatives. We farmers recognise and name all these potatoes as distinct units. I myself farm around 150 cultivars of native potato in my community, all different in shape, colour, texture and flavour. They are beautiful. My brothers and sisters do the same in their communities. Our indigenous knowledge, particularly of the women, is responsible for the high number of varieties we have in the pool of species used in our fields and kitchens. Women ultimately make the decisions about what variety to maintain, incorporate or discard from the repertoire of varieties we keep in our households.

Biocultural heritage improves our food security, our local economy, the resilience of the agro-ecosystems and thus the wellbeing of the Potato Park communities. Diversity helps us to continue to adapt our potato varieties to the heterogeneous and fast changing environment and makes them less vulnerable to pests, diseases and severe weather conditions that we face in the Andes.

In managing this great diversity, we have merged in-situ and ex-situ conservation strategies. Our in-situ conservation approach combines community seed banks (which are probably more dynamic than conventional gene banks because they are actively used by all community members) with the conservation of wild relatives within genetic reserves4, and the continued cultivation of potato genetic resources in our indigenous farms. This approach has minimised genetic erosion as well as generating endogenous plans5 based on traditional knowledge, which ensure that genetic variation is secure for the future.

The repatriation process has fostered a dynamic horizontal partnership with other scientists, creating exemplary collaborative partnerships based on written agreements and mutual respect with research centres, including national and international universities. These collaborations focus on complementarities and on producing new ideas and innovations from the cross-fertilisation of indigenous knowledge and science that benefits our communities.

The Potato Park is managed collectively by a decision-making body called the Association of Communities of the Potato Park. This leadership is an inter-community institution working for the collective. Local institutions function and coordinate with the leadership at various different levels of governance. These institutions have been effective in fostering local innovations based on their deep knowledge of the local environment and the application of customary rules, norms and protocols. Livelihood and income generation from crop diversity has been achieved by fostering local microenterprises, and the generation of benefits through these micro-enterprises has gone hand in hand with the promotion of the maintenance of crop diversity on farms. Government support, through the Peruvian Biodiversity and Biosafety Unit of the Environment Ministry, has been essential for both ex-situ and in-situ conservation at the Potato Park.6

Traditional knowledge and customary sustainable practices to conserve the endangered red panda in Ilam, Nepal

The indigenous peoples of Ilam, East Nepal include the Kirant (encompassing the Rai and Limbu peoples), Lepcha, Tamang, Sherpa, Sunuwar, Gurung, Magar and Thangmi. East Nepal is the historical domain of Kirant, with Kirant kingship running from 600 BC in Kathmandu. Kirant kings have ruled for over 1,000 years, using customary practices.

The indigenous peoples of Ilam are making important contributions towards conserving the endangered red panda (Ailurus fulgens) through their traditional knowledge and customary sustainable practices. Under the Nepal National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act (1973), the red panda is recognised as a protected priority species, designated as vulnerable in 1994 and as endangered in 2004 because of habitat loss.7 People do not hunt red pandas because religion and customary systems have prohibited it, even before they were known to be endangered.

“Tamang culture has a “Choho” traditional institution of Tamang, to help take care of the forest, red panda habitat, historical areas and resources; and the head Lama (Buddhist) plays a valuable role in decision-making for the use and protection of red panda habitats. “ 2

Indigenous peoples know that red pandas in the wild rely mostly on bamboo for food (90 per cent), followed by fruits (three per cent), insects (2 per cent), crops (1 per cent) and other sources (3 per cent). Communities have observed that the existing bamboo forests in the areas are experiencing poor growth. They are damaged by wildfire, drought and the disappearance of water sources in the boreal forest, and other disturbances such as over-collection of non-timber forest products, local development including road construction, and human encroachment. Consequently, the indigenous communities have increased actions to protect the bamboo forest ecosystem inside the boreal forest through controlling wild fires and restoring water sources. As two community members explained: “We make a fire break line and check it for further burning. People keep a rotation to watch the fire and inform everyone to control the fire. They are also protecting water sources with planting and restoring natural ponds that can help to preserve the bamboo forest for red pandas.”

Traditional practices and institutions for conserving the red panda: the “Kipatiya Pratha” of the Kirant

The Kipatiya Pratha is the customary system of the Kirant. It is a local authorised body which uses traditional governance practices for conservation and sustainable management, for the use of natural resources and for the protection of biodiversity and the habitats of red pandas.

Kirant priests (Phedangba and Nuwagire), elders, women and traditional healers play important roles in collective decision-making to declare the forest patches that should be protected, ensuring that water sources and bamboo forests provide a good habitat for red pandas. In the Kipatiya Pratha, the individual obeys the collective decision to care for the red panda’s habitat (Pudekudo ko Basthan) and natural resources. If any member of the society tries to disobey the decision or misuse it, he or she will be punished. Kipatiya Pratha maintains a good governance system for red panda habitat conservation, controlling poaching, hunting, fire control, use of resources; and it has its own punishment tradition. If somebody acts in a way that disobeys tradition or hunts the red panda, then they call him or her into a meeting and inform the person not to do this, because it is important for society. If the person continues hunting or disobeying, or ignores the decision, then they will receive further punishment, such as a fine or becoming a social outcast (the person will not be allowed into any kinds of social functions). It is these social norms and values that create a good governance system.

The Ogiek’s experience with protected areas in Mount Elgon, Kenya: Ways towards rights-based conservation

The population of the Ogiek of Mount Elgon is about 18,000 and about 3,000 Ogiek still live on our ancestral lands in Chepkitale on Mount Elgon, which supports a rich variety of vegetation ranging from montane forest to high open moorland. As hunter gatherers indigenous to this area, our rights to our lands are recognised by Article 63(2)(d)(ii) of the Kenyan Constitution. But the fact is that the Government has not put this into practice, and this is a bone of contention for all forest communities in Kenya, not just for the Ogiek.

The Ogiek’s struggle and impacts of evictions

In the 1930s the effects of land dispossession and colonialism really started to be felt by the Ogiek. The communities were first evicted from their lower lands and restricted to the higher mountain forest areas when the lower lands were taken by British colonialists for farming. The forests were then gazetted as protected areas and a tiny part up on the moorlands was set aside as a native reserve. From 2000 onwards, the community’s struggles have become more urgent, especially after the final part of the community lands in the native reserve was gazetted as Chepkitale Game Reserve, following the conversion of other parts as Mount Elgon National Park in 1968. Communities have been evicted from all these areas except Chepkitale, to where we have kept returning after every eviction. Every community member has been a victim of evictions; I doubt that there is a single Ogiek family that has not faced evictions. I have experienced evictions four times myself; others have been evicted many more times.

These evictions have broken communities and families. Many acts of violence have been committed, such as burning of our houses and confiscating or burning of our belongings. Impacts have included restrictions on harvesting of forest resources, which has threatened our food security. This was very pronounced in the fifties and seventies, when it exposed the community to unimaginable hunger. Another negative impact has been the lack of access to medicinal plants.

Some of those who have been completely evicted from the forests were forced to change their livelihoods and become farmers. These evictions have not only had negative impacts on communities’ livelihoods but also on the forest itself.

Corruption amongst government officials has had a negative impact in many of these supposedly protected areas, not only through facilitating the establishment of timber plantations but also through encouraging charcoal burning, elephant poaching and so on, all of which the Ogiek community opposes.

Application of the Whakatane assessment: a way to facilitate conflict resolution

In 2011, IUCN agreed to pilot rights-based assessments of protected areas as part of the “Whakatane Mechanism” to address the injustices that have been inflicted on indigenous peoples through the creation of protected areas. One of the pilot assessments took place at Mount Elgon. It focused especially on the Ogiek land that had been turned into the Chepkitale Game Reserve in 2000 without our consent.

The assessment took place in three stages: a first stakeholder roundtable discussion, a scoping study, and then another roundtable discussion. The discussions took place in Nairobi and involved the Ogiek communities, Kenya Forestry Service (KFS), Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), the Ministry of Environment, the IUCN country office and the local government.

The Whakatane Mechanism really helped us to have amicable discussions with the different actors and it became clear that the different interests could indeed be consolidated and that a win-win situation could be achieved. It became clear to all stakeholders that the communities were not interested in destroying the forest; if they were, they would already have done so long ago.

One outcome of the assessment was the recommendation that the land should revert back to the Ogiek community. The County Council declared in a resolution that they would not oppose this and from 2012 until June 2016 we have had amicable discussions to achieve an out-of-court settlement, only disrupted very occasionally (e.g. in 2016) by the Kenya Forestry Service burning our homes as some people find it very hard to let go of the colonial approach and embrace the win-win potential of the new conservation paradigm.

Identifying impacts and threats to vulnerable ecosystems in Guna Yala, Panama

The Guna people live in Guna Yala, an archipelago in which most inhabited islands are threatened by rising sea level caused by climate change. Guna Yala contains 81 per cent of Panama’s reefs and has high levels of biodiversity.3 The Guna undertake fieldwork to analyse and diagnose problems associated with climate change, both in relation to the ecosystem and in relation to their own socio-cultural and economic systems. Through their research, the Guna have been able to identify and monitor several impacts, including increased mortality of coral reefs, drying up of mangroves and erosion of sandy island ecosystems. These have negative impacts not only on biodiversity, but also on the traditional management of the islands by the Guna.

The Indigenous Terra Madre 2015

In November 2015 the second Indigenous Terra Madre (ITM 2015) was held in Shillong, Meghalaya, North-east India. Indigenous Terra Madre is an event organised by the Indigenous Partnership for Agro-biodiversity and Food Sovereignty, Slow Food International and North East Slow Food and Agrobiodiversity Society (NESFAS).

Bringing together 640 delegates representing more than 170 indigenous food communities from 62 countries across the world, the ITM celebrated the cultural and biological diversity of indigenous communities as expressed in their songs, dance, dress, folklores and food systems. Thematic sessions centred around issues of advancing local food systems, clean and fair food, building networks of local climate-smart crops, and promoting resilient livelihoods and nutritional security. The event showcased indigenous traditional knowledge, evolving skills including culinary innovations, and sustainable practices that safeguard agro-biodiversity and contribute to resilient food systems. The event also facilitated engagement among food communities and participating scientists and policymakers. The gathering adopted “The Shillong Declaration” – a declaration with commitments and proposals for action – which has since been disseminated and communicated widely.2

Development of cultural indicators to monitor Kauri dieback disease in Aotearoa/New Zealand

Kauri dieback is a deadly, fungus-like disease specific to New Zealand which has killed thousands of kauri trees over the past ten years. Kauri dieback was formally identified in April 2008. Its origin and time of arrival in New Zealand are still unknown, but evidence suggests that it was introduced from overseas. This assumption is based on the narrow genetic variation found in the disease population and on its preference for high soil temperatures, which suggests a more tropical origin.2 There is no known treatment as yet.

Kauri trees are considered a taonga species by many Māori: a species valued as a means of connection to the spiritual beliefs and way of life of their ancestors. A collective of representatives from Māori entities with kauri forests have formed the Tangata Whenua Roopu (TWR), part of a joint Kauri Dieback Programme that encompasses research on detection of kauri dieback, methods to control it and public awareness campaigns to help arrest its spread. The Programme has developed a culturally-based methodological framework for monitoring Kauri Ngahere (forest) health.

The framework uses a holistic kauri ecosystem approach (ngahere) which takes into account factors beyond the kauri alone. A key application of the methodology is the development of cultural health indicators, including both qualitative and measurable (quantitative) indicators that were repeatable and duplicable. The indicators were designed to determine the state of health of kauri forests in different areas; to anticipate or predict the presence of kauri dieback, and to identify resilient kauri trees or forests that were not susceptible to kauri dieback. The indicators were created using a mātauranga Māori approach2 within a complementary scientific framework.

Extensive interviews with experts in ngahere kauri (kauri forests) were held in order to develop a set of values, which guided the development of indicators and recommendations for the monitoring programme. A site record form and mobile data collection app template were also developed. In addition, a research project based on how Matauranga Māori rongoa (medicinal use of plants) may be useful for either individual kauri trees or kauri forest health was also developed. If successful it could provide knowledge and /or tools for use in future research and potentially in the fight against kauri dieback, either through use of a bio-control or by building the resilience and enhancing the health of kauri forests.