Rooibos industry paid R12 million to Khoi and San community in historic move

The Khoi-Khoi and San people were recognised as the rightful traditional knowledge holders of Rooibos in 2014.


South Africa’s rooibos industry has paid out R12 million to the Khoi and San communities as part of an Access and Benefit-sharing (ABS) agreement signed in a historic 2019 move.

The South African Rooibos Council (SARC), the National Khoi-San Council, and the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) signed the agreement in 2019, in a move meant to see the Khoi and San communities benefit from the commercialisation of Rooibos.

The Department of Environmental Affairs recognised the Khoi-Khoi and San people as the rightful traditional knowledge holders of Rooibos in 2014.

The Khoi and San people have for years been demanding to be constitutionally recognised as South Africa’s first nation.

As a signatory of the Nagoya Protocol, South Africa requires all who trade in indigenous biological resources to share the benefits with traditional knowledge holders in a fair and equitable way.

“It’s the first agreement of its kind in the world – both in terms of the interpretation and application of the Nagoya Protocol,” said Chairperson of SARC, Martin Bergh.

“Previous access and benefit-sharing agreements involved specific companies and traditional knowledge holders, whereas the Rooibos agreement encompasses the entire industry, ensuring all volumes of Rooibos sold will be levied through one process,”

As part of the agreement, which was launched at Khwa ttu near Cape Town, the SARC pays a levy of 1.5% of the farm gate price of Rooibos.

The ABS agreement is the first of its kind in the world.

Bergh said the agreement is regarded as a milestone in the history of global governance for the preservation of genetic biodiversity, associated traditional knowledge, and poverty relief.

“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 Bergh.

The funds are meant to uplift the Khoi and San communities but how they will be disbursed is entirely up to the National Khoi-San Council and South African San Council.

An annual report to ensure transparency will be submitted to the DEFF.

The access benefits will assist small indegenous farmers of the Wupperthal, Nieuwoudtville and Suid Bokkeveld communities who are of KhoiKhoi descent

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