On 19 August 2013, the indigenous San and Khoikhoi groups signed a historic benefit sharing agreement with Cape Kingdom Nutraceuticals Pty under South Africa’s Biodiversity Act 10 of 2004. Cape Kingdom Nutraceuticals is a pharmaceutical company that processes Buchu, a small shrub endemic to the Western Cape used for its essential oils. Buchu’s medicinal qualities are associated with the traditional knowledge (TK) of the Khoikhoi and San peoples. The agreement acknowledges that the Khoikhoi and San’s medicinal plant knowledge predates that of subsequent South African inhabitants and that the Khoikhoi and San are “legally entitled to a fair and equitable share of the benefits that result from the commercial development of the Buchu plant.” Although the San Council was previously involved in entering into similar agreements, this marks the first time the Khoikhoi represented by the National Khoi-San Council (NKC), entered into such an agreement where their TK is recognized as such.
During November 2012 Natural Justice entered into a memorandum of understanding with the National Khoi-San Council. Under this agreement, Natural Justice offers legal support to the NKC in its ongoing struggle for legal recognition of its collective rights which includes amongst others, legal processes relating to benefit sharing. Natural Justice was also able to assist the NKC in forming a negotiating team with the San council represented by Roger Chennels. In terms of this historic partnership,the NKC and the San council act as a representative structure for the Khoikhoi and San peoples to protect their rights around associated traditional knowledge for related plants.
It is all too rare for a private company to recognize, especially financially, traditional knowledge and the intellectual property rights of indigenous peoples. Under the benefit sharing agreement with Cape Kingdom, the Khoikhoi and San communities will receive 3 percent of the profits related to Buchu products. Cape Kingdom also commits to share its knowledge of the commercial use of the plant with the indigenous communities in exchange for the San and Khoikhoi endorsing the products. In response to the agreement, NKC Chairperson Cecil LeFleur stated: “We are very proud and excited to be part of this process. Today we share the benefits of our historical knowledge with Cape Kingdom Nutraceuticals. We feel that this partnership will be to the benefit of the Khoikhoi and San people in South Africa, and will contribute to our development and empowerment.”