Rooibos tea profits will be shared with indigenous communities in landmark agreement
The South African government’s decision is the first industry-wide agreement under the Nagoya Protocol of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, an international law that sets the rules for compensating communities if their knowledge of biodiversity is used by businesses or scientists.
More than a century after commercial farming began on their traditional lands, the San and Khoi peoples of southern Africa will share in the profits of the lucrative rooibos tea industry, the South African government announced on 1 November.
The announcement is the culmination of a decade-long negotiation between industry representatives and San and Khoi community groups. A 2015 review of the historical and ethnobotanical research literature commissioned by the South African government concluded that there is a “strong probability” that the first users of rooibos were the San people and that they — and the Khoi — should be compensated by industry.
Industry says it will pay, but does not accept the government's interpretation of the research and conducted its own literature review.