Rooibos Tea Agreement

We were first involved in Rooibos` journey when we opposed the registration of Rooibos patents by the multinational Nestlé. In 2012, we agreed to act as legal representatives of the National Khoi & San Council when they began important but sensitive negotiations on the Rooibos benefit compensation agreement. The Rooibos Code of Ethics and Agreement are small steps towards a greater demand: that indigenous peoples, especially those whose ancestors lost lives, land and livelihoods during more than a century of exploitation, be treated fairly and equally. Martin Bergh, managing director of Clanwilliam-based Rooibos Ltd, says there is no evidence that the Khoisan drank Rooibos tea, but acknowledges that they were aware of the plant and used it for its medical properties. The agreement was signed on Friday between South Africa`s environment minister, the National KhoiSan Council, the San Council of South Africa and the South African Rooibos Council. Such contributions . [include] important discoveries by individuals like Tryntjie Swarts, who located Rooibossamen`s “golden nests” in the 1920s, facilitating the expansion of the industry; [and] Annekie Theron, who discovered by chance in 1968 that Rooibos had a reassuring effect on her hyperallergic baby, which led to a dramatic increase in demand for Rooibos. 49 This disagreement led to a dead end, with each party clinging to its interpretation of the research. Martin Bergh, president of SARC, who is also chief executive of one of Rooibos` largest agricultural companies, Rooibos Ltd, based in Clanwilliam, says the sector still does not accept that indigenous communities use rooibos as tea. But he agrees that the San were probably aware of the Rooibos plant before anyone else.

Summary: The 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and its Nagoya Protocol (2010) were a breakthrough in global governance. These two UN treaties on sustainable development have unique environmental objectives, with the obligation to address long-standing human injustices through access to biological resources and the protection of traditional knowledge of indigenous communities. However, 25 years after the introduction of CBD, there have been no major agreements to offset benefits generating significant financial flows for indigenous communities. On 1 November 2019, this changed dramatically with the signing of the Rooibos (Tea) Benefit Sharing Agreement in South Africa. The Rooibos Agreement is the largest benefit compensation agreement between industry and Indigenous peoples. This conference examines the 10 years of production of the Rooibos Agreement, which involved several indigenous communities, industrial and government officials. The result is an example of sustainable community development based on pragmatism, fairness and respect. This case provides a lot of transferable information that could be applied elsewhere in developing and developed countries (including Canada). The Khoi and San, together known as Khoisan, have inhabited the mountains of Cederburg for centuries, a region of South Africa and the only place in the world where varieties of drinkable rooibos thrive.

The Nov. 1 announcement culminates in decades of negotiations that establish the people of San as the first user of Rooibos, a discovery that entitles them to a share of the profits of the Rooibos industry. For seven years, Natural Justice has supported the National Khoi & San Council in negotiations with the South African Rooibos industry, and today we can be proud of what we have achieved together. The negotiations concluded one of the first charitable sharing agreements globally, which offers the indigenous peoples Le Khoikhoi and San in South Africa not only a form of restitution, but also recognizes them as the traditional holders of knowledge for Rooibos.