Exports of natural ingredients benefits local communities in South Africa
European buyers and consumers are on the look-out for exciting new products and ingredients, looking at traditional use of plants or local biodiversity. With its unique local biodiversity, South Africa is a great source of inspiration. Think about marula oil, traditionally used by Tsonga women, or products from the baobab tree, the ‘Tree of Life’.
Bringing new ingredients with inspiring stories to the market can bring strong benefits to South Africa. Suppliers marketing these ingredients in Europe are not the only ones to profit from market access. Benefits are channelled through the chain, impacting the livelihoods of processing plant workers and communities supplying raw materials (often from remote rural areas with few other income generating opportunities).
“ProFound helped me understand what natural ingredients companies need in order to do business and how this relates to access and benefit sharing. I can use this in my work to create a better business enabling environment. ProFound has connected me to the right stakeholders in the sector to do so.”
– Preshantie Naicker-Manick (Department of Environmental Affairs South Africa)
Negotiating access to community knowledge
Unfortunately, there are still very few South African products on the market. In part, this is because it is difficult to bring a new natural ingredient to the international market that is based on traditional knowledge or natural resources. The Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS), signed by both South Africa and the European Union, helps to overcome such barriers. It mandates that companies aiming to market products based on traditional knowledge must negotiate with the community which developed this knowledge. Benefits stemming from this knowledge must also be shared with the community.
In potential, ABS means additional income for communities. In practice, its implementation in South Africa makes it difficult for local entrepreneurs to comply and bring their products to the market. In turn, this creates a hurdle for communities to get any benefits from sales of the product.
“There has never been a more challenging time to take a natural product to market. I believe that ABS is the future of ‘fair trade’ and that ‘fair trade certifications’ will become irrelevant as ABS gains understanding and momentum around the world. ProFound has offered me a platform to share my experiences with becoming ABS compliant. My experiences can help other stakeholders to develop policies which enable entrepreneurs to do business. And it is these businesses that we need to offer a better future to rural communities in South Africa.”
– Sarah Venter (Founder of Ecoproducts)