The San and Khoi people, the original knowledge holders to the many medicinal uses of the rooibos plant, will finally reap the economic benefits of the indigenous shrub that has been exported worldwide for years.
A historic Access and Benefit-sharing (ABS) agreement brokered by the South African Rooibos Council (SARC) between the rooibos industry, the National Khoi-San Council (NKC) and the South African San Council (SASC) was celebrated at a special ceremony in !Khwa ttu, close to Cape Town, on Friday.
R epresentatives from t he Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) , the Rooibos industry and Khoi and San Councils were on hand to mark the occasion.
The Nagoya Protocol, to which South Africa is a signatory, requires industries that trade in indigenous biological resources such as rooibos and aloe ferox to share the economic benefits with traditional knowledge-holders in a fair and equitable way.
Known scientifically as aspalathus linearis but called “rooibos” by the locals, the plant has been used by the San and Khoi for generations as a remedy for a wide range of ailments.
The fine, needle-like rooibos leaves are high in antioxidants and caffeine-free. It can relieve allergic symptoms, provide an energy boost and help heal damaged skin. This was confirmed by a traditional knowledge study the South African government commissioned in 2014.
"The industry recognises that the Khoi-Khoi and San people had knowledge of the Rooibos plant and that including them as beneficiaries in this agreement, is the right thing to do," said SARC chairperson Martin Bergh.
The agreement includes a benefit-sharing levy at 1.5% of the farm gate price of rooibos, effective from 1 January 2019. At the current rand value, this equates to an estimated R9-million per annum. The levy may differ year-on-year based on the price and volumes of rooibos being traded.