Historical tea payment made to South African tribes

Historical tea payment made to South African tribes

Two tribes in South Africa, the Khoi and the San, have received their first payment from the sale of the indigenous rooibos plant, which is grown primarily for tea. The Rooibos Tea Council, which represents the companies, paid the tribes more than $700,000 as part of a profit-sharing agreement.

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

She said indigenous tribes still use rooibos when babies have teething problems. It is also used for skin conditions such as eczema and to relieve stomach cramps.

Snyders said paying for traditional knowledge should apply globally.

“If, for example, I am a company based on the people who lived in the knowledge of the area, so I made a product or used the plant and sell it and make a profit as a company, then I would definitely recommend these types of collaborations with the industry” , said.

FILE - Workers lift bags of rooibos tea onto a tractor in the remote mountains of the Cedarberg region, some 300 km (186 miles) north of Cape Town, on March 30, 2006.

FILE – Workers lift bags of rooibos tea onto a tractor in the remote mountains of the Cedarberg region, some 300 km (186 miles) north of Cape Town, on March 30, 2006.

He also said that indigenous peoples should be taught about the legal process.

“You must defend your rights because, in our case, if we don’t stand up nine years ago, go to the government and say: ‘But we want our knowledge recognized’, if we didn’t take the first step as San people, we wouldn’t 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 cut and dried rooibos. The money was deposited into two trust accounts for the San and the Khoi.

Snyders said the money will be reinvested in the people.

“We’re going to make sure it’s for the betterment of the San people. And the betterment comes through improving livelihoods, and the main thing is education. For us it’s education, education, education,” he said.

A director of the Rooibos Council of South Africa, Dawie de Villiers, said he cannot give a precise estimate of how much the industry is worth. However, he said, the caffeine-free product is exported to more than 50 countries, and that number is growing every year.

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

Officials say this period is seen as the deal’s pilot phase, and further negotiations will take place to develop a non-cash benefit sharing model.

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