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‘Accessing genetic resources, traditional knowledge can boost rural development’

Written by on April 13, 2024

A senior official in the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism says access to genetic-related traditional knowledge in Namibia can generate much needed benefits that can contribute to rural development and empower rural communities.

Kauna Schroeder, principal project coordinator and environmental commissioner adviser says this would also serve as an incentive to ensure more attention is given to research and development in the country, thus prioritising bioprospecting and value addition for product development.

Schroeder was recently re-elected as the chairperson of the Compliance Committee of the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) arising from the commercial utilisation of genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge at the committee’s meeting last month in Montreal, Canada.

Schroeder told The Namibian a functional ABS System in Namibia is crucial for local value addition and small and medium enterprise development, industrial development, capacity development, technology transfer and boosting regional and international trade.

“ABS issues are important as they can contribute to poverty alleviation, food security, rural development and community empowerment on matters related to the use of biological and genetic resources associated with traditional knowledge,” she said.

The Nagoya Protocol is under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

The Nagoya Protocol Compliance Committee meeting also re-elected Tianbao Qin from China as the vice chairperson of the committee.

Schroeder, who is Namibia’s focal point for negotiations related to the CBD, was first elected as the committee’s chairperson in 2020.

The Nagoya Protocol Compliance Committee is responsible for examining situations where parties fail to submit national reports under Article 29 of the Nagoya Protocol, as well as scrutinising information that indicates that a party is facing difficulties complying with the said article.

The committee also deals with systematic issues of general non-compliance and advises how best the protocol can be aligned to Target 13 under the Kunming-Montreal Biodiversity Framework, which calls for increasing the sharing of benefits from genetic resources, digital sequence information and traditional knowledge.

Committee members are drawn from each of the CBD’s five regions.

The Nagoya Protocol on ABS was adopted on 29 October 2010 in Nagoya, Japan, and came into force on 12 October 2014. The Nagoya Protocol on ABS was agreed to as a global effort to implement the third objective of the CBD, which calls for the fair and equitable benefit sharing arising from the commercial use of genetic resources and their associated traditional knowledge.

The CBD provides the international legal framework for conserving biological diversity and the sustainable use of its components. It is one of the three multilateral environmental agreements that emanated from the 1992 Rio Earth Summit.

Meanwhile, Schroeder also revealed that the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism will introduce the ABS guidelines and an online application for accessing biological or genetic resources and their associated traditional knowledge.

The launch event is scheduled for 29 April in Windhoek and is aimed at implementing the ABS regime in Namibia effectively.

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