Rich resources from poor communities: An analysis of Namibia’s access and benefit-sharing legislation

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Since pre-independence, Namibia has faced wealth disparities and unfair distribution of benefits arising from natural resources. Producers, who hold traditional knowledge related to genetic resources, continue to endure poverty. In response, the Government of Namibia collaborated with various stakeholders to develop access and benefit-sharing policies and regulations. This study aimed to investigate the effectiveness of access and benefit-sharing legislation in distributing monetary and non-monetary benefits from users of non-timber forest products to indigenous and local communities who produce them. To achieve this, we integrated the access and benefit sharing approaches with the value chain framework to identify gaps in the implementation of benefit-sharing. We employed a mixed-methods approach, incorporating semi-structured in terviews, participation in symposiums, and statistical data analysis. Our findings revealed that despite the established legislative measures aimed at improving the benefits for Namibian pro ducers, the actual sharing of the benefits remains unsatisfactory. Only a few communities that harvest non-timber forest products had benefit-sharing agreements or joint patent ownership with global or regional industries. Moreover, the San communities, who received incentives from the Devil’s Claw manufacturer in 2021, did not enter into any benefit-sharing agreements until March 2023. We suggest that the recently implemented access and benefit-sharing regulations may not fully address the benefit-sharing issues overlooked by previous policies and initiatives. Therefore, we recommend further studies in exploring the potential of establishing efficient non-timber forest product processing facilities to economically empower communities. This, will ultimately contribute to national economic growth and the achievement of sustainable development goals.
In this paper, an ABS-value chain framework to analyse the implications it has on enhancing the economic and social benefits for ILCs involved in NTFP production was developed. Due to its critical role in influencing benefit-sharing outcomes, value chain analysis attracts considerable interest from policymakers, scholars, and funding organisations (Gereffi and Lee, 2016). Global value chains (GVCs) analysis, in particular, could offer insights into the international trade patterns between the Global South and the Global North (Najarzadeh et al., 2021). In addition, the governance structures are complex and multifaceted, encompassing national and inter national regulations as well as different types of public, private, and social governance (Gereffi and Lee, 2016). Therefore, we evaluate the monetary and non-monetary benefits that Namibia’s NTFP producers gain from their integration into global and regional value chains as well as the effects of governance structures in ensuring benefit-sharing. Our hypothesis indicates that impactful agreements are more likely to be established when all ABS and value chain partners, including the government, communities, firms, and NGOs, negotiate collectively. As such, the paper discusses reasons for the inefficiency of benefit-sharing legislation in so far addressing income inequalities between users of genetic resources and NTFP harvesting communities. Our study, thus, contributes to broader debates concerning economic inequalities in the use of natural resources, with particular emphasis on quantitative and qualitative data that highlight the value of plant genetic resources. This paper comprises five sections, including this introduction. Section 2 defines ABS and BioTrade concepts and presents our integrated ABS-value chain framework. Section 3 outlines our data collection methods. In section 4, we present empirical findings on the impact of ABS in Namibia, including its influence on the valuation of NTFPs for indigenous and/or local producers, the status of benefit-sharing agreements, as well as a case study on the impact of Devil’s Claw on indigenous San communities. Finally, in Section 5, we summarise the significance of ABS legislation and propose an approach for ILCs to enhance their position in benefit-sharing negotiations.
Natural resources, Indigenous natural products, Nagoya protocol, Value chains, Sustainable livelihoods, Rural development