The indigenous Khoi and San people of South Africa, the first people who used the rooibos plant as a tea, signed a groundbreaking agreement with the South African government whereby they will benefit from the commercialisation of Rooibos.
As of 2019 a levy of 1.5% of the farm gate price of all rooibos tea is annually being paid into a trust, controlled by the Khoi and San, to be used at their discretion for the upliftment of their communities. This follows years of negotiations since 2014 in recognising the Khoi and San as the rightful traditional knowledge holders of rooibos.
“It’s the first agreement of its kind in the world – both in terms of the interpretation and application of the Nagoya Protocol. Previous ABS agreements involved specific companies and traditional knowledge holders, whereas the Rooibos agreement encompasses the entire industry, ensuring all volumes of Rooibos sold will be levied through one process.”
According to the South African Rooibos Council (SARC) this agreement would see all volumes of Rooibos sold levied through one process. The access and benefit-sharing (ABS) levy agreement is estimated at R9 – R12 million a year and has the following implications:
- The Khoi and San communities will now benefit from the rooibos industry’s commercial use of rooibos and honeybush.
- The rooibos industry paid R12.2 million to the communities’ councils, making good on a share-benefit agreement signed in 2019.
- The South African government recognised the Khoi and San people as the rightful knowledge holders of rooibos.
- As part of the agreement, the rooibos industry pays a levy of 1.5% of the farm gate price of rooibos to a trust on an annual basis.
The Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Ms Barbara Creecy also described the signing as a landmark moment.
“Today’s celebration is also an observance of the correction of a past injustice – a wrong that is being righted. The successful completion of this negotiation, and the implementation of this agreement is a very good story for all of us to tell considering that Rooibos is an existing industry with prospects for transformation, where small players in the value chain have the potential to become big players in a global industry.”