Historic Tea Payment Made to South African Tribes

Two tribes in South Africa, the Khoi and the San, have received their first payment for the sale of the indigenous rooibos plant, grown mainly for tea. The Rooibos Tea Council, representing businesses, paid the tribes more than $700,000 as part of a benefit-sharing agreement.

The director of the San Council, Leana Snyders, said it took nine years of negotiations before the Rooibos Traditional Knowledge Benefit-Sharing Agreement was signed in November 2019. 

She said the Indigenous tribes still use rooibos when babies have teething problems. It is also used for skin conditions like eczema and to alleviate stomach cramps. 

Snyders said paying for traditional knowledge should be applied globally.

“If, for instance, I am a company based on the people that lived in the area’s knowledge, then I made a product or I used the plant and I sell it and I make a profit as a company, so I would definitely recommend this type of collaborations with industry,” she said. 

She also said Indigenous people must be taught about the legal process. 

“You must stand up for your rights because, in our case, if we did not stand up nine years ago, going to the government and saying, ‘But we want our knowledge to be recognized,’ if we did not make the first step as the San people, we would not be here, where we are today,” Snyders said. 

This first annual payment of $700,000 comes from a 1.5% levy on the sale of all rooibos that has been cut and dried. The money has been paid into two trust accounts for the San and the Khoi. 

Snyders said the money will be reinvested in the people.

“We going to make sure that it is for upliftment of the San people. And upliftment comes through livelihood upliftment, and the main thing is education. For us it is education, education, education,” she said. 

A director of the South African Rooibos Council, Dawie de Villiers, said he can’t give an accurate estimate of how much the industry is worth. However, he said, the caffeine-free product is exported to over 50 countries, and that number grows every year. 

“In fact, it has some good medical studies that identify it as being a good product to use in stress alleviation, and we’re seeing it more and more being used in a wide range of applications,” de Villiers said. “Not only in herbal teas but also in nutritional supplement formulations, so it is certainly a product for today’s times.” 

Officials say this period is being regarded as the pilot phase of the agreement, and further negotiations will take place to develop a nonmonetary benefit-sharing model. 

 

leave a reply