South African female traditional leaders are implementing a groundbreaking approach to promote rural livelihoods. A project is being implemented that will help manage indigenous knowledge systems and the sustainable exploitation of natural resources that have nutritional and medicinal values.
Ms. Matshidiso Moroka, CSIR’s program manager of technology for development said that the South African government recently introduced a Biodiversity Act to address the need to protect indigenous knowledge systems. “The Act requires bioprospecting companies to provide benefit sharing arrangements that have the approval of all stakeholders before being granted a research permit,” she explained.
The female traditional leaders requested the South African government’s assistance to protect their indigenous knowledge systems. They said that this could be achieved through greater enforcement of the Biodiversity Act.
Meanwhile, the traditional leaders said they assumed if their campaign to promote the management of indigenous knowledge systems in South Africa succeeded, agents of multi-national pharmaceutical companies would try to exploit other southern African communities that might not have mechanisms to protect their indigenous knowledge systems.
Despite recent court rulings, "biopiracy" -- non-locals patenting treatments based on plants used by indigenous communities -- continues to be a problem. Construction of databases and knowledge archives about native group uses of local plants is an increasingly popular way of combatting biopiracy (by establishing "prior art," and blocking patents), but such projects are not easily accomplished. Indigenous knowledge is often an oral tradition, and remote communities in the developing world may not be willing to share that knowledge with outsiders.
The Management of Indigenous Knowledge Systems Project is a South African effort to identify and protect the unique local biosystems used by local communities as medicines, based the authority -- and knowledge -- of female traditional leaders. The result has been something even greater than a knowledge archive:on worldchanging