Efforts to recognise and mainstream indigenous knowledge and related traditional practices of local communities will get a mighty boost during a webinar scheduled for this week, October 29, 2020.
To be hosted by the Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) unit of the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), the webinar aims to protect the local and indigenous communities against marginalisation and exploitation by “outsiders”. Local and indigenous people are considered the custodians, owners and “providers of genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge”.
They are also credited for the role they played in preserving and promoting IKS against sustained marginalisation and denigration by detractors. There are growing calls to integrate them into the current body of knowledge in the fields of health, medicine, science and technology and to provide institutional support for their sustenance.
According to the DSI it is important to encourage communities to take part in developing their own protocols and rules of engagements. This will direct and guide scientists, scholars, collectors, private sectors and other interested third parties on how they can interact with indigenous communities as equal partners.
The webinar will be held under the theme: “Biocultural Community Protocols (BCPs) to Protect Communities’ Cultural and Biological Resources”. It will also explore the idea of using the BCPs as instruments that set out clear terms and conditions for the government, the private sector, researchers and others on how to engage communities on their local resources and knowledge.
DSI said in the past, local and indigenous communities were undermined by outside users, who took advantage of oral practices within these communities to extract whatever they needed without adequate compensation or acknowledgement.
The department added that in many cases communities, not being aware of the risks, would give away their indigenous knowledge or resources without any written documents being in place.
The BCPs have been inspired by the Nagoya Protocol on ‘Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization’, which came into effect in 2014. South Africa is a contracting party to the Nagoya Protocol, according to the DSI.
The protocol represents “the first legally binding international instrument to encourage states to respect the rights of indigenous communities”. Article 12 of the protocol is particularly pertinent as it stipulates that parties should consider indigenous communities’ “customary laws, community protocols and procedures” with respect to indigenous knowledge associated with genetic resources, the department said.
South Africa already boasts a number of related policies that recognise the role of indigenous communities in biodiversity conservation and food production, and the value of availability and access to their resources. In addition, the Protection, Promotion, Development and Management of Indigenous Knowledge Act of 2019, dictates that in terms of the Nagoya Protocol, access to indigenous knowledge must be preceded by a BCP.
Former school principal Jeremy-Dao!goasoa van Wyk and manager of the Potskerf Indigenous Knowledge and Heritage Research Centre, which conducts research on the Khoi cultural heritage of the southern Cape, will be among the speakers.
He is currently working on a BCP document for the Attaqua Khoi Community – a first for the DSI for Khoi communities in the country. A book about the cultural history of the Attaqua Khoi is one of his projects.