Minister Edna Molewa awards 7 bioprospecting permits & launches Bioprospecting, Access and Benefit-Sharing guidelines

Komaggas Community Hall, Komaggas, Nothern Cape Province
27 July 2012


Mr Zama Nzuza (extreme left) receives the bioprospecting permit for Edakeni Muthi Futhi from the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs. Next to Mr Zama Nzuza is Mr George Cloete, a beneficiary of the kraalbos permit, next to the Minister is the Acting Premier of the Northern Cape, Ms Griezelda Cjiekella.  >> visit our gallery

The Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Ms Edna Molewa today, 27 July 2012 awarded seven bioprospecting permits to organisations enabling them to legally engage in bioprospecting activities and afford certain benefits to the owners of the traditional knowledge and/or providers of indigenous biological resources. The seventh permit was awarded to Rapitrade 670 (Pty) Ltd. for the extraction and purification of chemical compounds from the shrublet, Galenia Africana, better known as Kraalbos. The shrublet is predominantly found in the Northern Cape and will be used for the production of products such as soaps and herbicides. The community of Komaggas, who are providing access to the  raw materials of Kraalbos, will be receiving both monetary and non-monetary benefits. The Minister has also launched South Africa’s Bioprospecting, Access and Benefit Sharing Regulatory Framework: Guidelines for providers, users and regulators.


(From left) Mr George Cloete, a beneficiary of the kraalbos permit, next to the Minister is the Acting Premier of the Northern Cape, Ms Griezelda Cjiekella.

Regulations for Bioprospecting, Access and Benefit Sharing came into effect in April 2008 and thus far the department has issued eight bioprospecting permits of which the first one was officially awarded in 2010 to HGH Pharmaceuticals (Pty) Ltd. The permit was awarded for international research on cultivated plant material and extracts from Sceletium tortosium, commonly referred to as Kanna, Channa or Kougoedand. HGH Pharmaceuticals (Pty) Ltd. was working with Gehrlicker GmbH, a German-based company to commercialise the product as a stress reducing, concentration enhancing and mood elevation substance. This proudly South African commercial product with endorsement by the Medicines Control Council will be marketed in South Africa by Brunel Laboratoria under name Elev8. In addition, the permit holder has completed the Phase 1 clinical safety study with the US Food and Drug Administration-Good Clinical Practice (FDA-GCP) on this product.


Minister Molewa is introduced to the kraalbos at a farm in Komaggas.

Speaking at the permit handover ceremony, the Minister said that, “Historically, a lack of bioprospecting policy framework and legislation both at national and international level, had permitted an almost unconstrained access to South African indigenous biological resources and indigenous knowledge, with biological and genetic resources being harvested, sometimes in destructively excessive quantities, and being exported for research and development at institutions abroad for innovative value addition, and off-shore financial benefit. Consequently, traditional knowledge holders and providers of indigenous biological resources were not benefiting from the use of our indigenous biological resources and the associated indigenous knowledge.”

Minister Molewa went on to emphasise that accordingtoone of the Chapters of the National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act, Act 10 of 2004 (NEMBA) no person may without a permit conduct commercial bioprospecting on any indigenous biological resource, or export any indigenous biological resources from South Africa for bioprospecting or any other kind of research.

The Minister explained that, “The  Bioprospecting, Access and Benefit Sharing or BABS Regulations were developed and promulgated to regulate the permit system set out in NEMBA in so far as that system applies to bioprospecting involving any indigenous biological resources.  Export from South Africa of any indigenous biological resources for the purposes of bioprospecting or any other kind of research must be permitted. In addition, the BABS Regulations set out the contents of, requirements and criteria for benefit-sharing and material transfer agreements. The BABS Regulations entered into force on 1 April 2008.”


A kraalbos farmer in Komaggas shows the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Ms Edna Molewa how kraalbos is harvested. Minister Molewa is on the extreme right in a red jacket. On the immediate left of the farmer is Ms Sylvia Lucas, MEC for the Northern Cape Department of Environmental Affairs and Nature Conservation.

Today, Minister Molewa officially awarded a further seven bioprospecting permits to different organisations to engage in bioprospecting activities. The first permit was awarded to the Regents University of California jointly with the University of Free State for the purposes of describing the extent to which the genetic polymorphism of vervet monkeys, Chlorocebus aethiops can assist in the international collaborative effort to establish Chlorocebus as the leading non-human primate model system for genomics-driven research.

The second permit was awarded to Dennis Noel de Villiers for the trade in Aloe ferox sap, extracts and crystals on national and international markets for bioprospecting. The third permit was awarded for the sale of Pelargonium sidiodes andAloe ferox raw materials in various formats for the purposes of bioprospecting on national and international markets. This permit was issued to Grahamstown-based Gower Enterprises that manufactures and prepares natural herbal remedies such as cough mixture and concentrate juice for local consumption.

Minister Molewa issued the fourth permit to Essential Amathole (Pty) Ltd. for the cultivation, primary procession, selling and exporting of Aloe ferox, helichrysum odoratissimum, Pelargonium reniforme and pelargonium sidiodes in different formats for national and international markets for biorpospecting. Essential Amathole (Pty) Ltd. producing a range of organic oils and medicinal plant extracts for local and international markets.

The Muthi Futhi Trust project is the recipient of the fifth bioprospecting permit. The permit was awarded for the cultivation, processing and marketing of herbal products containing active ingredients from 40 indigenous biological resources. Some of the commercial products produced treats congestion, asthma and boosts the immune system.

The sixth permit was awarded to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in collaboration with an international client based in Johannesburg, Cragill RSA (Pty) Ltd.; for the development of Sclerechilton illicifolius (monatin, molomo monate) as a natural sweetener scientifically proven to be 1200 -1400 times sweet than that of sucrose when tested as 5% and 10% solution.

The seventh and final bioprospecting permit awarded today was to Rapitrade 670 (Pty) Ltd. and is expected to bring many benefits to the community of Komaggas where there is an estimated 90% jobless rate. Some of the benefits arising from the benefit sharing-and material transfer agreements include the employment of some Komaggas community members as project coordinators and harvesters; the collection of a pre-determined, specified percentage of all distributable cash reserves after costs at the end of each financial year to beneficiaries and the purchase of harvested Kraalbos from Komaggas farmers.

Furthermore, as per the regulations for Bioprospecting, Access and Benefit Sharing, a Section 21 company has been established for the Komaggas community to receive 5% of all distributable cash reserves after costs at the end of each financial year, or at such a time as deemed appropriate by the directors of Rapitrade 670 (Pty) Ltd.The Khoi Heritage Foundation which is representing the holders of traditional knowledge about the Kraalbos will also receive one percent (1%)of all distributable cash reserves after costs at the end of each financial year, or at such a time as deemed appropriate by the directors of Rapitrade 670 (Pty) Ltd.

Since the promulgation of the regulations for Bioprospecting, Access and Benefit Sharing, the Department has been actively involved in capacity building and raising awareness of the regulatory requirements. Through this process it was recognised that further tools are required to support stakeholders in ensuring the fair and equitable negotiation and conclusion of benefit sharing and material transfer agreements.

As such, the Minister today launched a document setting out guidelines for providers, users and regulators of bioprospecting. The guidelines document is for users, providers and regulators of the use of biological and genetic resources as well as the associated traditional knowledge. The guidelines outline a practical approach for compliance with the legislation. Such a guideline will be a tool to assist communities who hold indigenous knowledge and also assist with improved access to enable engagement with users and regulators.

The purpose of the document is to assist the different role players in understanding the legal requirements of the Bioprospecting regulations and their rights under the law. The guidelines document also aims to increase awareness about some of the basic principles and concepts of access and benefit sharing and provide guidance on the negotiation, conclusion and evaluation of material transfer and benefit sharing agreements.

Minister Molewa said that, “As many of you may know, South Africa has a rich natural and cultural resource base that ranks amongst the top 3 in the world's most bio-diverse countries. We are home to approximately 24 000 plants species and have an entire floral kingdom within our borders. South Africa is not just rich in biological diversity but also blessed with a rich cultural diversity. These natural and cultural resources underpin a large proportion of the economy and many rural and urban people urban are directly dependent on them for employment, food, shelter, medicine and spiritual well being.”

South Africa’s green economy agenda is underpinned by the important role and value that biodiversity plays in our very survival, giving rise to the notion of bioprospecting, access and benefit sharing. The bioprospecting permits issued to companies thus far have provided for benefit sharing including monetary and non-monetary benefits, and the sustainable development and utilisation of indigenous biological resources. The use of the indigenous plants and animals for bioprospecting contributes to the creation of job opportunities, poverty eradication, skills development and technology transfer when it is done for a purpose that is in the public interest.

Information resources

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Background information

In April 2008, under the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act 2004 (Act No. 10 of 2004) the former Minister of Environmental Affairs established the regulations for Bioprospecting, Access and Benefit Sharing. In May 2011, South Africa took a lead role and signed the Nagoya protocol in Japan. The Nagoya Protocol is a legally binding agreement outlining a set of terms articulating how one country will gain access to another country's genetic resources and how the benefits will be shared.

The significance of South Africa’s party to the Nagoya Protocol is that it encourages grassroot involvement in the process of discovery, research and development phases of products based on genetic resources. The purpose of the national legislation is not to restrict access to resources and collect money, but to ensure that the resources are accessed for a purpose that is in the interest of the public. Such interest could include the protection and conservation of the genetic resources of South African animals, plants and other organisms; stimulating economic development and promoting scientific research and capacity in South Africa. The legislation also stipulates that the money accruing from any benefit sharing agreement should go into a trust fund administered by government and then transferred to the community, in this way growing the green economy