Report from Kagisano Molapisi, Master Programme in Indigenous Studies, University of Tromsø
Financial support to the project:
“San Intellectual Property Rights – Case Study of Hoodia Gordonii (Xhoba) in Northern Cape, South Africa” (Draft Title)
This summer I went for my Masters Thesis fieldwork in Upington, Askham among the San people from the mid of June till 28th July 2007. My fieldwork was financial supported by the Centre for Sami Studies and SEMUT. I would like to take this opportunity to thank these institutions for their support. Your generous assistance has enabled me to travel, stay and collect data for the entire period.
My study intends to examine and analyze prior informed consent on the San/Center for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) case based on the principle of “prior informed consent” as stated in Convention on Biological Diversity(CBD) article 8 (j) that directs states parties to “respect, preserve and maintain knowledge, innovations and practices…embodying traditional lifestyles relevant for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity and promote their wider application with the approval and involvement of the holders of such knowledge”.
This brings the notion of indigenous people’s rights to control and benefit from the use of their traditional knowledge. In that context the study aimed to concentrate on ‘prior informed consent’ and ‘benefit-sharing’.
Behind this title lays the idea that San Community’s intellectual property rights were violated, they were denied some shares in the profits from hoodia sale and CSIR did not obtain prior informed consent when patenting hoodia gordonii. Instead of assuming and making conclusions, I went to the field to examine and analyze this case. This involved learning about the actors and structures utilized during the negotiation process. In other words, decision making procedures, processes of consultation and participation of the San. Hence, an accord in which both parties participate equally is highly appreciated in cases of this nature. The organizational structure that was used during the process of consultation was also an important aspect to examine for that helps to analyze equality and decision making powers between the concerned parties.
After my short stay in Gaborone, I went home to meet family members and friends. When I was in my home village, Pandamatenga, an invitation of San gathering was extended to me. Briefly, I was shocked to notice that San in the village are trying to form an Association. Below is a statement made by a San Chief, Ms Rebecca Banika. She is the first San and first woman to be a member of Ntlo ya dikgosi (former House of Chiefs) in Botswana.
As you can see, this is gathering of San or Bushmen as we are called, with the intension to address sensitive issues in our country. Although that, there are some challenges we experience so far, for example, some people are already pointing fingers to us that we are tribalistic, lack of financial support and most importantly lack of capacity-building among our people-San. With that, we are glad that your presence in this meeting would help us in terms of sharing with us issues surrounding indigenous people and wish you to give us advice on how to go around. It is our wish that our voices could be heard nationally and internationally.
I also had the opportunity to share information with elders on issues concerning indigenous peoples in the world. Discussions of this nature were very helpful to me throughout the entire period of my data collection. Before my departure, I planned to do my fieldwork under San organization named Southern African San Council (SASC) WIMSA and SASI to get secondary and primary data. I also wanted to participate in some of their meetings and workshops as an observer. Unfortunately, timing was wrong on my side. I arrived when they finished such activities and had others planned for November in Namibia. Nonetheless, people were very helpful to me especially my field assistant Ms Annah Festus. She organized meetings with some key people who are engaged in the San hoodia case. To grasp the complexity of my topic, I had to approach various actors in South Africa and Botswana through e-mail communication, review secondary data from such as journal articles and most importantly the report from San Organisations, newspapers, theses and personal conversations with the actors in this case.
In order to make comparison, I also reviewed other cases such as the Kani case in India and the Australian case. Making comparison and drawing on other’s experiences might suggest a better and bring new ideas.
Last but not least, I am very grateful for the generous financial support from Sami Centre and SEMUT strategy fund. Without your help, my fieldwork would have been unsuccessfully and hard to write this piece of work with huge data collected in which I interacted with people on the ground. This thesis will contribute to Sami Centre and SEMUT strage fund upon completition.