The Government of Rwanda is set to issue a ministerial order within six months highlighting ways Rwandans will have access to fair and equitable sharing of benefits derived from genetic resources once exported for research and commercial product development.
This was revealed by Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA).
Genetic material is any material of plant, animal, microbial or other origin containing functional units of heredity.
Genetic resources are used for research or product development that finally deliver commercial products especially those that are processed in industries.
For citizens of countries to share benefits from genetic resources used for research, product development and commercialization, countries across the world have ratified the Nagoya Protocol.
Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) is an agreement signed in 2010 in Japan and entered into force in 2014.
It aims to ensure fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources in order to benefit both providers and users of genetic resources especially when genetic resources leave the country providing the genetic resources to another country for research and commercial product development.
It also benefits people with traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources.
In 2017, Rwanda started a journey to establish legal institutional frameworks to aid in effective implementation of the Protocol.
Juma Nsanzimana, in charge of Environment Education and Mainstreaming at REMA explained that Rwanda is set to issue ministerial order to guide fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources.
He said 90 per cent of genetic resources are from plants while the rest are from animals.
He said that most genetic resources are used in factories outside Rwanda to make different commercial products yet the local community that keeps such resources doesn’t benefit.
“In some cases, such outside industries make products such as pharmaceutical products from our resources and come back to sell them to Rwandans at higher price. This means there is no fair and equitable sharing of benefits from our genetic resources,” he said.
The protocol will guide how actors along the genetic materials value chain can share benefits.
“That is why ministerial order will provide details on the implementation in Rwanda. The draft of the order is currently under Law Reform Commission,” he said.
The order will also appoint competent national authority to guide the protocol implementation.
“It has been proposed that it will not only be REMA but also other institutions will be involved,” Nsanzimana said.
He said that some shared benefits from genetic resources can be long-term benefits, technology transfer, monetary and non-monetary benefits, capacity building community projects and others.
“For example, researchers took some genetic resources outside to see if they can increase milk production. This could be long-term benefits to Rwandans,” he noted.
Valorisation, protection of genetic resources
Emmanuel Munyaneza, a scientist and researcher in Natural Sciences working at National Museum of Environment said that there are different methods to calculate benefits that can be shared from genetic resources value chain starting from its collection to an end product.
He reiterated that the country should benefit from genetic resources transferred to other countries for research and commercial product development.
He said that there are over 100 plant species that are medicinal plants protected in gardens at the Museum of environment.
“Rwandan researchers can use them for research and product development,” he said.
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REMA said that there is a list of biodiversity with genetic resources including endangered species to be protected but need to be improved since it was not exhaustive.
Processors speak out
Felix Sinayobye, who is involved in linking farmers to Asili Natural Oils Company that produces cosmetic oil from wild calabash seeds and Moringa trees said that fair and equitable sharing of benefits from these genetic resources should be defined by law.
“We have been trying to provide health insurance, fertilizers, seeds, cattle, solar energy to the community where we get raw materials. We think they benefit from genetic resources we use in products development but we need a guiding law,” he said.
This is where Nagoya protocol should intervene in case genetic resources are transferred to other countries for research and product development, he said.Follow NkurunzizaMiche