Payment of benefits from rooibos to San and Khoi communities a milestone for industrywide collaboration

14 July 2022

The payment of just over R12,2 million to the San and Khoi people of South Africa is a significant milestone in the implementation of the rooibos traditional knowledge benefit-sharing agreement signed in November 2019.

“The payment of the monies to the two communities is a significant measure of the success of the work being done by the department with sister departments and all relevant stakeholders to successfully implement this pilot phase of the first industrywide traditional knowledge benefit sharing agreement between the rooibos industry and the Khoi and San communities,” said the Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Ms Barbara Creecy.

The department had played a key role in the nine-year negotiation process that saw the signing of the agreement that is now one of South Africa’s success stories in the implementation of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (NEMBA), the Access and Benefit-Sharing Regulations (BABS Regulations) as well as the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of the Benefits Arising from their Utilisation (in short the Nagoya Protocol on ABS).

Because rooibos has a long history of commercialisation in South Africa, it was deemed important for the rooibos industry to comply with NEMBA and the associated BABS Regulations. Thus the 2019 industrywide agreement which entails the one-year pilot through which the San and the Khoi people will receive 1.5 percent of the farmgate price from the 10 rooibos industry processors. This payment is done in the form of an annual levy. 

An amount just over R12,2 million generated in the first year of farmgate purchases was paid into the Bioprospecting Trust Fund/Suspense account before being transferred into the two community trust accounts established by the South African San Council and the National Khoisan Council. The money received by the department has been shared equally between the two respective communities with the Khoi-Khoi Peoples Biodiversity and Rooibos Trust and the Andries Steenkamp ABS Trust each receiving R6 138 961. 25. These monies only relate to the rooibos benefit-sharing agreement.

The two councils are presently finalising processes and procedures on how the money received will be distributed across the Khoi and San communities.

The Andries Steenkamp Benefit-Sharing Trust will share the benefits with the San communities to assist with their endeavours to protect their traditional knowledge and related biodiversity. The funds received will also be used to protect their cultural heritage, to advance education and development within the community and to improve their livelihoods with respect, honesty, fairness and care. Community structures are to be assisted to develop governance structures before the benefit is shared.

The Khoi-Khoi Biodiversity Trust is developing a comprehensive plan to distribute the funds in a way that will secure equity and fairness to all. It will be guided by a set of principles and policies, and communities will only be able to access funds by submitting a formal business plan to the CEO of the trust. This process will be communicated to the different community structures and be followed up by workshops.

Since the signing of the rooibos benefit-sharing agreement, the department jointly with the rooibos industry and the communities developed standard operating procedures for levy collection through the appointment of a Levy Administrator. This ensures that the systems and procedures needed for the successful collection and verification of the agreed 1.5% levy on farmgate price of rooibos purchased.

The department has further initiated a process to review the terms and conditions of the rooibos industry-wide benefit-sharing agreement, which includes consultation with all parties linked to the agreement. A process to appoint an independent service provider to consider transactions related to the existing agreement is being finalised. The review process will also involve the appointment of an independent service provider to develop a non-monetary benefit-sharing model for consideration by the communities and the rooibos industry for future negotiations.

Further, this pilot phase has allowed government to gather accurate data on the dynamics of the rooibos industry. This includes information on opportunities for transformation, the composition of the farmers and other role-players across the value chain, as well as market and trade information related to the sale of rooibos locally and internationally.

Minister Creecy has reaffirmed that for fair and equitable benefit-sharing interventions to work, the commitment of all people involved in the sector in South Africa and abroad was needed.

“We recognise that innovative solutions are required to address the fair and equitable sharing of benefits derived from the utilisation of genetic resources and the traditional knowledge associated with its use.  Amongst these is partnerships between industry and communities to ensure that our national and international biodiversity commitments are met,” said the Minister. “With a suitably-negotiated and concluded benefit-sharing agreement in place, the issuing of the associated bioprospecting and biotrade permits is more efficient.  Without it there would be no contribution to the socio-economic growth of the two communities.”

The minister has once again emphasised that the sustainable utilisation of natural resources, such as rooibos, needs to happen in a way that includes the conservation of such species so that they are available for the benefit of present and future generations.


For audio and visual material, click on:


For media inquiries contact:
Albi Modise
Cell: 083 490 2871