WINDHOEK, 12 JUN – The Ministry of Environment and Tourism is this week discussing the Access to Biological and Genetic Resources and Associated Traditional Knowledge Act at a workshop in Windhoek.
The workshop started Monday and aims to finalise regulations in the Act, which will allow for access to biological or genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge in rural areas to be regulated in order to benefit local communities.
Speaking at the opening of the workshop, Minister of Environment and Tourism Pohamba Shifeta said many of Namibia’s biological and genetic assets are vulnerable to over-exploitation.
“Companies often have better negotiation skills, market knowledge and legal assistance than their local level suppliers, which results in an unbalanced bargaining process,” said Shifeta, adding that this means rural communities are vulnerable to exploitation and economic abuse.
He said the ministry, with support from the Office of the Attorney General, will capacitate communities and provide legal and technical support to ensure fair sharing of benefits resulting from the utilisation of biological and genetic resources.
The ministry is also working with the Business and Intellectual Property Authority to design systems that will help Namibia protect associated traditional knowledge and promote the use of innovation leading to commercial products.
“The sustainability of biological and genetic resources use in commercialisation often results in unsustainable harvesting in terms of supply, hence there is a need to ensure measures to conserve and sustainable utilise these resources as we move forward,” Shifeta said.
He however also stated that the Act is not meant to prevent, stop or hinder business, but rather to improve the livelihood of local people and strengthen economy, as well as promote the establishment of the local industrial sector.
“Investors are attracted to Namibia’s natural heritage, as well as the rich traditional knowledge attached with the utilisation of assets,” he said.
At the same occasion, the Chief of the Topnaar Community, Seth Kooitjie said since there has been commercial interest in natural resources such as !Naras, local communities find it hard to access these resources.
“The Act will help us to better understand and manage business dynamics as well as the likely community propensities,” said Kooitjie.
The Access to Biological and Genetic Resources and its Associated Traditional Knowledge Act was passed into law in 2017.
The four-day workshop is amongst others being attended by representatives of various ministries, traditional authorities and academic and research institutions.