Bioprospecting permits issued at first Biodiversity Economy Indaba

12 November 2013

The First Annual Biodiversity Economy Indaba ended in Polokwane today (12 November 2013) with government committing to enhanced support to the wildlife and bioprospecting industries – key contributors to the South African economy.

The Department of Environmental Affairs had in the past hosted separate events to address these issues – a Hunting Indaba in 2012 and aBioprospecting, Access and Benefit-Sharing Permits Celebrations in 2011 and 2012.

It was decided that this year the Department would host the 2013 Biodiversity Economy Indaba, bringing together stakeholders from the biodiversity economy sectors in the hunting, game farming and related industries, as well as the bioprospecting, natural product and biotrade industries to consider the contribution of these sectors to economic growth (GDP).

The theme for the Biodiversity Economy Indaba was aligned to the 2014 Conference of Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity theme – Biodiversity for Sustainable Development.

The Limpopo MEC for Economic Development, Environment and Tourism, Mr Seaparo Charles Sekoati, confirmed the government’s support to the hunting and bioprospecting industries in the keynote address delivered at the First Annual Biodiversity Economy Indaba at The Ranch Hotel in Limpopo on behalf of Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Ms Edna Molewa.

MEC Sekoati said the Indaba was a unique opportunity to interact, share best practice and inform policy by pooling together the knowledge of leaders and captains of industry in the biodiversity economy, including the hunting; game farming and related activities industries; as well as the bio-prospecting, natural products and bio-trade industries.

South Africa is endowed with rich natural resources but lacks measures and/or tools for effective transformation of its biological capital into goods and services for social and economic development.  This shortcoming contributed to the present levels of poverty in South Africa, and Southern Africa.

The South African Constitution protects the environment not only for the present generation, but for future generations too, through measures that promote conservation and secure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources while promoting justifiable economic and social development.

Therefore, one of the key mandates of the Department of Environmental Affairs is to protection and enhancement of environmental assets and natural resources through sustainable utilisation. This can be promoted and developed through the sustainable utilisation of biological resources such as hunting, game farming, game breeding, as well as bioprospecting, biotrade and the natural product markets, which contribute to economic development and the South African GDP.

Biodiversity is recognised globally as the cornerstone for economic growth and sustainable development.  South Africa is one of the most mega-biodiverse countries in the world and need to find ways in which to harness the sector so that it can effectively contribute to economic growth.  This requires dialogue at national, regional and international levels to consider possible means of biodiversity trading in Africa in a manner that is sustainable and can contribute to the continent’s green economy. 

The two-day conference, which started with a technical session on Monday, 11 November 2013, is just one of the many interventions the Department has planned to develop the economic contribution or the biodiversity sector to South Africa’s growth.

Although being held under a single banner, the hunting and bioprospecting sectors met separately to consider the contributions each sector makes to biodiversity conservation and sustainable development beyond the measure of the contribution to national GDP.

Among the key areas considered by the Biodtrade and Bioprospecting sectors has been the establishment of an industry forum, the development of an action plan in order to achieve optimum industry transformation, the introduction of a South African certification scheme for the sector, and to provide recognition of bioprospecting permit holders.

The estimated 200 delegates attending the Biodiversity Economy Indaba reviewed the implementation of the action plan agreed to at the 2012 Hunting Indaba and the development of an action plan to achieve optimal growth in the industry. Also discussed was community involvement, poverty alleviation and industry transformation, and the implementation of a Certification Scheme. he establishment of a national forum for the biotrade / bioprospecting industrywill create a formal communication channel between industry and government.

  • The introduction of a South African certification scheme for both sectors would assist in the development and growth of the industries.  While certification schemes to identify organic and fairtrade products exist, these are not aligned to South African needs.
  • By developing a South African certification scheme the contribution of independent rural entrepreneurs will be recognized thus providing the assurance of adherence to quality standards and reflecting that the indigenous biological resources are sustainable utilised.
  • The dialogue at the Biodiversity Economy Indaba has been informed by the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan; the National Strategy for Sustainable Development; the National Development Plan; and other international obligations emanating from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and the Convention on Biological Diversity, including the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources.

It is hoped that a National Biodiversity Economy Strategy will result from the consultation with stakeholders in both sectors.

South Africa is an important emerging market, with an abundant supply of natural resources, and ranks as the third most mega-biodiverse country in the world. As such, the government recognises that there is a need to balance economic and other development goals, with that of environmental sustainability for the benefit of present and future generations.

“Ournatural capital is both a focus area of the green economy strategy and an area of intervention identified in the national sustainable development strategy,” said MEC Sekoati. 

The biodiversity economy, which is part of the government’s Green Economy policy, is uniquely placed to give the economy a competitive edge while conserving natural resources.

The South African National Biodiversity Institute has calculated that South Africa’s ecological goods and services are valued at R73 billion, equivalent to about 3% of the national GDP.

“The sustainable use of indigenous biological resources is fundamental to the development of South Africa’s economy. The bio-prospecting and the hunting industries in particular, are also integral to our contribution to sustainable development and green jobs in South Africa.”

Recent estimates have placed the bio-prospecting industry’s contribution to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product at R2.1 billion, which places the overall contribution of the direct utilisation of indigenous biological resources at R8.3 billion. In the previous financial year, the entire value chain of the hunting industry contributed some R6.2 billion to the South African GDP.

MEC Sekoati handed over seven bioprospecting permits to organisations enabling them to legally engage in bioprospecting activities and afford certain benefits to the owners of the traditional knowledge and/or providers of indigenous biological resources.

The recipients of integrated export and bioprospecting permits were African Aloe (Pty) LTD,

Organic Aloe (Pty) LTD, Parceval (Pty) LTD, Skimmelberg Fynbos (Pty) LTD, the Council For Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR),  Incosmetics (Pty) LTD and Ecoproducts. 

The transition to a green economy in South Africa is linked to several key policies, strategies and plans including, amongst others the 2030 National Development Plan (NDP) endorsed by Cabinet in 2012.

MEC Sekoati emphasised that as the biodiversity sector evolved, the Government faces trade-offs daily.

The MEC has welcomed the steps taken by the game farming and biodiversity industries, which had identified transformation and empowerment as areas that require attention and dedicated resources and support.

More Game Farm managers and other successful business owners are becoming involved in Black Economic Empowerment partnerships, while the bioprospecting industry has business and landowners working with communities to harvest plants and derivatives and manufacture products for commercial use.

In order to meet Constitutional requirements, the Department is ensuring that the benefits derived from the multi-billion rand industries in the biodiversity economy are equitably distributed.

The government wants to support sustainable development and to embark on collaborations and partnerships with all stakeholders for mutual benefit.

The Indaba was an indication that the Department, and government, had reached a momentous stage in the history of South Africa’s development.  It serves as an affirmation that the government, and the country as a whole, is beginning to walk the path towards sustainable use and equitable distribution of benefits together for a renewable economy.


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