Take “mosaic” approach to agriculture, boost support for small farmers, UNCTAC Report urges
UNCTAD press release, 18 September 2013

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND: Farming in rich and poor nations alike should shift from monoculture towards greater varieties of crops, reduced use of fertilizers and other inputs, greater support for small-scale farmers, and more locally focused production and consumption of food, a new UNCTAD report recommends. Subtitled “Wake up before it is too late: Make agriculture truly sustainable now for food security in a changing climate,” the Trade and Environment Report 2013 warns that continuing rural poverty, persistent hunger around the world, growing populations, and mounting environmental concerns must be treated as a collective crisis. It says that urgent and far-reaching action is needed before climate change begins to cause major disruptions to agriculture, especially in developing countries. The report recommends a rapid and significant shift away from “conventional, monoculture-based… industrial production” of food that depends heavily on external inputs such as fertilizer, agro-chemicals, and concentrate feed. Instead, it says that the goal should be “mosaics of sustainable regenerative production systems that also considerably improve the productivity of small-scale farmers and foster rural development”. The report stresses that governments must find ways to factor in and reward farmers for currently unpaid public goods they provide – such as clean water, soil and landscape preservation, protection of biodiversity, and recreation. Read the press release … Additional information, including links to downloads …

Smallholder Innovation for Resilience (SIFOR): Strengthening Biocultural innovation systems for food security in the face of climate change: Methodology coordination workshop report
IIED and ANDES, July 2013

This publication reports on the workshop held from 29 April to 4 May 2013, in Cusco, Peru, organized as part of a 5-year EC-funded project. The workshop brought together project research teams from India, Kenya, China and Peru, the Potato Park communities (Peru) and IIED to develop a common methodology for the SIFOR baseline study and action-research on biocultural innovation. The emerging findings of the qualitative baseline study on technological, market and institutional Innovation in each country were presented; and key indicators for the quantitative survey were identified. ANDES presented its conceptual framework for action-research in the Potato Park, and a field visit to the Park enabled partners to learn about its diverse biocultural innovations and collective governance. A working definition of biocultural heritage innovations was developed; and the potential of different policy tools and frameworks to protect them was explored. Download the report [pdf] … Further information on SIFOR …

Recognising indigenous rights
Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa release, 20 August 2013

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA: An agreement to share benefits was signed on 19 August 2013 between indigenous San and Khoi khoi groups and the pharmaceutical company Cape Kingdom Nutraceuticals in South Africa, related to the processing of Buchu, a small shrub endemic to the Western Cape used for its essential oils. Acknowledging that the San and the Khoi’s medicinal plant knowledge predates that of any subsequent inhabitants of South Africa, the landmark deal confirms that they are “legally entitled to a fair and equitable share of the benefits that result from the commercial development of the buchu plant.” Under the benefit-sharing agreement, the Khoi and San communities will receive three percent of the profits related to Buchu products. In addition, Cape Kingdom Nutraceuticals commits to share its knowledge of the commercial use of the plant with the indigenous communities, in exchange for the San and Khoi endorsing the products. Read the article …

Recent Brazilian Federal Court Decision Involving Genetic Heritage and Traditional Knowledge
Lisa Mueller, National Law Review, 27 June 2013

CHICAGO, USA: This article reviews a decision delivered on 22 May 2013 by the Federal Court from the State of Acre in Brazil involving alleged illegal access to genetic resources and traditional knowledge. The Federal Public Ministry (FPM) filed a civil lawsuit against five companies that had developed soaps containing an oil having emollient properties obtained from the seed of a palm tree called “murumuru.”  Astrocaryum murumuru bears edible fruits and is native to the Amazon Rainforest. Murumuru butter extracted from the seeds may be used as a moisturizer. The FPM alleged that the use of moisturizing oils derived from murumuru is a part of the genetic heritage and associated traditional knowledge of the Ashaninka people (an indigenous group of people living in the rainforests of Peru and in the State of Acre Brazil). The Federal Judge ruled that there was no violation of the national legislation (Brazilian Provisional Measure No. 2.186-16 of August 23, 2001) because several of the defendant companies had not carried out any scientific research or technological development related to the genetic heritage that might be characterized as “access.”  The Judge reasoned that there had been no illegal access to genetic heritage or associated traditional knowledge since: the information and properties of murumuru were obtained from scientific documents published during the 1940s (in other words, this information was in the public domain); one of the companies obtained an authorization for accessing murumuru from another region, the State of Amazonas; and another company obtained murumuru oil from a manufacturer which has obtained such oil from the Ashaninka. Read the article …

Ethiopian families use cultural crafts to improve livelihoods
UNDP release, 28 May 2013

NEW YORK, USA: Genet Tesfaye is a young, married mother of one living in Ethiopia’s capital city of Addis Ababa. A potter by trade, Genet has been contributing more and more to her family’s income through her craft. Ethiopia has a diverse and rich cultural heritage, and a joint UNDP-UNESCO project is taking advantage of that heritage to help support the country’s fight against poverty. As part of that project, Genet and other women in a cooperative were trained to improve their skills. The training provided to Genet and the women in her cooperative is part of a three-year programme that has been active in six regions of the country, with more than 100,000 beneficiaries. The programme has contributed to helping communities use and build on their culture to preserve their heritage while simultaneously learning new skills to increase their income. Read the release …

UEBT launches practical guide on equitable benefit sharing
UEBT press release, 22 May 2013

AMSTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS: Titled “Fair and equitable benefit sharing: manual for the assessment of policies and practices along natural ingredient supply chains” this guide produced by the Union for Ethical BioTrade (UEBT) provides information on putting in practice benefit sharing in the sourcing of natural ingredients, in line with the principles of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Nagoya Protocol. It explains the objective, terminology and practical implications of benefit-sharing requirements for companies and other organizations working with natural ingredients. It also outlines a participatory process to assess policies and practices on benefit-sharing, and identify strengths and weaknesses. Read the release … Download the guide [pdf] …

Collective trademarks and biocultural heritage: towards new indications of distinction for indigenous peoples in the Potato Park, Peru
Alejandro Argumedo
IIED, March 2013 | ISBN 978-1-84369-907-1

This paper presents the experience of the Potato Park communities in Cusco, Peru, in applying for formal protection through a collective trademark, and also in adopting an informal trademark for their products and services. The process of registering the collective trademark brought to light the incompatibility of the registration requirements with Peruvian law on indigenous governance, and the application was unsuccessful. The Potato Park communities have instead opted to use their trademark informally, and it is now widely recognised as a distinctive symbol of the Park. A survey found that as well as raising prices and increasing sales, the mark has helped to ensure social cohesion. However, while the trademark is informal, it lacks protection. Furthermore, experience shows that existing intellectual property tools tend to be unsuitable for protecting communities’ collective intellectual property, and even “soft” intellectual property tools such as collective trademarks and geographical indications can be beyond the legal and financial capacity of remote rural communities. The report concludes with a proposal for an alternative indigenous “biocultural heritage indication” which could draw on geographical indications, design rights and unfair competition law. Such a tool could open up the current IPR system to rural communities, alleviating poverty while protecting traditional knowledge, and strengthening biological and cultural diversity. Download the report [pdf] …

Indigenous Knowledges in a Changing World
21-22 April 2013 (Darwin, Australia)

This symposium will mark the opening of the new Australian Centre for Indigenous Knowledges and Education. It will address a series of questions aiming to reflect the local and specific nature of indigenous knowledge in the Northern Territory, and the informal and collaborative way indigenous peoples continue to contribute to life in the area. An Open Day on 21 April will showcase how indigenous peoples use their traditional knowledge systems to develop and grow business enterprises and employment opportunities. The Symposium Forum on 22 April will include addresses by academics and a panel discussion with academics and indigenous elders. Visit the symposium’s website … Read the CDU press release of 12 April … Read the CDU press release of 16 April …

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