Business adds value to indigenous medicine

Send to a friend

The details you provide on this page will not be used to send unsolicited email, and will not be sold to a 3rd party. See privacy policy.

Paarl valley

For thousands of years, the San and Khoi indigenous people of what is now South Africa have used a plant known as buchu that is native to the western part of the country. They consider it a holy plant and use it to treat ailments such as fever, stomach ache and back pain. The San and Khoi have freely shared their knowledge of medicinal plants with others who arrived in South Africa over the centuries. But, until recently, they never received any benefits when that knowledge was used for commercial gain.

A global legal framework that came into force in 1992 changed that. Countries that signed the Convention on Biological Diversity had to ensure that the originators of traditional knowledge get a fair share of any benefits when universities or businesses use biological resources.

Several companies have used buchu for years as a medicine or food additive. When South Africa passed its benefit-sharing laws, ‘nutraceuticals’ company Cape Kingdom came forward voluntarily to negotiate an agreement with the San and Khoi people.

The agreement is an example of a fair partnership where indigenous people and a private firm work together to add value to natural resources and benefit from their use.

This image gallery visits the Paarl Valley, one of the areas where buchu grows wild, to take a look at the plant, Cape Kingdom’s facilities and some of the health products developed with the plant.