The South African San Council and the CSIR agreed in Upington today to work together in researching the indigenous knowledge of the San people on the usage of indigenous plants, to the benefit of both parties.
The bioprospecting agreement was signed by Mr Petrus Vaalbooi, Chairperson of the SA San Council and Dr Marthinus Horak, Bioprospecting Manager at the CSIR.
Mr Vaalbooi said the San decided that the group's knowledge about the use of indigenous knowledge should be recorded for purposes of conservation, proof of ownership and possible use of San knowledge in future development projects.
"We have walked a considerable distance with the CSIR, and strongly believe that working with the scientists will lead to new opportunities for the San people to benefit from our knowledge of the veld", says Vaalbooi.
Dr Horak says both parties will, for the duration of the contract, work together to systematically capture the ancient knowledge about the uses of plants of the Kalahari. "The San's knowledge has been tried and tested in the veld over thousands of years and is a precious source that has to be preserved for future generations. This agreement facilitates the linking of San knowledge and modern science in an endeavour to develop new products such as natural remedies."
Vaalbooi says the agreement ensures that the intellectual property of the San and the CSIR is kept confidential, while joint decisions will be taken about formal protection such as suitable patents and trade marks.
In terms of the agreement, the parties will jointly decide about suitable commercialisation strategies, including the framework within which benefits should be negotiated with prospective buyers of products.
Both parties have committed themselves to the conservation of natural resources, as well as current and future legislation on biodiversity and indigenous knowledge.
Horak emphasized that the CSIR is in favour of consortium-based research and that the agreement allows for universities and other research institutions to be involved.
In 2003, the CSIR and the San Council signed an agreement around the sharing of benefits linked to the commercialisation of a CSIR patent on the use of an appetite suppressant that had been developed from Hoodia.