Bio-Cultural Protocol for Khoe Community On Cards

EFFORTS are underway to introduce a bio-cultural protocol for one of Namibia’s indigenous people -the Khoe community- who reside in Bwabwata National Park in Namibia’s West and in the Kavango and Zambezi regions.

This will be the first bio-cultural protocol in Namibia and its introduction is intended to articulate the community’s determined values, procedures, priorities as well as set out their rights and responsibilities under customary, state and international law as the basis for engaging with external actors such as the government, companies, academics and non-governmental organisations, when seeking access to their land and genetic resources for resource development, conservation, research and other legal and policy frameworks.

There are about 6,700 Khoe people in Bwabwata National Park, who survive mainly through hunting and gathering. They are a sub-group of the San people of Southern Africa, says Elize Shakalela, who drafted the bio-cultural protocol for the Khoe community.

Shakalela is the assistant to the legal officer at the Biodiversty and Climate Change Management Project in the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Aina Kambala. She said the protocol will give the community rights to their land and genetic resources.

“Government or companies cannot just go there to get access to their land or genetic resources without consulting the community,”she said.

In the draft, it is mentioned that the land is very important for the Khoe, in addition to wild animals and the Kyara tree. Shakalela was appointed to draft the protocol at a meeting held with the Custodian Committee of the Khoe community on 6 May this year and was facilitated by the South African-based company Natural Justice.

At the meeting, she said, the community responded positively to the idea of having a bio-cultural protocol as they face many challenges.

Last month, Shakalela then went back to gather information from the Custodian Committee that will make up the protocol.

So far, she has validated the draft with three of 13 villages. These are Mashambo, Pacho and Mutchiku. “I still have to visit the remaining villages to finish the validation process,”she said.

Article 12 of the Nagoya Potocol on Access and Benefit Sharing (under the Convention on Biological Diversity), states that “in implementing their obligations under the Nagoya Protocol, parties shall in accordance with domestic law take into consideration indigenous and local communities’ customary laws, community protocols and procedures, as applicable with respect to traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources.”

Namibia is a party to both the Convention on Biological Diversity and its Nagoya Protocol.

Absalom Shigwedha is a freelance environmental journalist.

Source : The Namibian