CORDIS - EU research results

Moving beyond the Access to Benefit Sharing

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - MBABS (Moving beyond the Access to Benefit Sharing)

Reporting period: 2021-11-02 to 2022-11-01

Many countries worldwide have ratified the Access to Benefit Sharing (ABS) of the Nagoya Protocol under the convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The ABS encourages opportunities to exploit genetic resources and anticipates that benefits can be shared equally and fairly between the knowledge holders and industrial companies. These incentives are believed to encourage biological diversity conservation, the sustainable use of its components, which will further enhance sustainable development towards human well-being. While in theory, the ABS seem to pave the way forward to a win-win situation between the transformers of local genetic resources and the local communities, little is known of what occurs at community level.

Yet, attributing Access to Benefit Sharing (ABS) remains a dilemma for most developing countries; only a few have implemented the legislation. At stake are endemic extracted natural resources which are transformed for the national or international markets. As they gain high added value in the cosmetic or pharmaceutical/sanitary companies and corporations working in market chains, local communities seldom benefit from these lucrative transactions. In addition, these directly impact communities negatively which depend on the transformation of these resources for their economic survival and lose control of access over the resources. The main objective of the study was to explore and analyse the factors that determined the attribution of the Access to benefit Sharing (ABS) and how these were implemented at a micro level for the utilisation/exploitation and development of medicinal, aromatic plants and/or herbal formulae by pharmaceutical/cosmetic corporations. It aimed to assess the impacts on the livelihood of mint farmers/growers in India and rural women in cooperatives in Morocco.

Despite imposed traveling restrictions to India during the pandemic, the research in Uttar Pradesh was completed with the support of the Department of Botany, Lucknow University, India. In addition, data were also collected in Morocco with women in Argan oil cooperatives. Thus, the MBABS project was completed with minor deviations and offers two lines of research. The first is a quantitative study emerging from the data collection in India; the second, a qualitative study emerging from the data collection in Morocco.
In India, the legislation stipulates that any natural resource whether endemic or not and destined to research or commercial ventures should be attributed ABS. It states that users of the biological resource (trader/manufacturer) who fall under Section 3(2)/ Section 7 are required to request prior approval of NBA or give prior indication to concerned SBBs respectively before the biological resources and associated knowledge for the purpose can be accessed as per the BD Act. According to the legislation, the end users must sign an Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) agreement and share their benefits in monetary/non-monetary form to NBA/SBBs as per the BD Act, 2002, BD Rules, 2004 and Guidelines on ABS regulations, 2014.

In two districts of Uttar Pradesh, farmers (all educated) grow mint (Mentha arvensis L.) (also referred to as “pudina”) for mint crystals which are used worldwide in sanitary, pharmaceutical, and confectionary products and destined for the national and international markets. Some farmers initially received essential oil distillation training from the Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (CIMAP); most farmers however, learnt the process from their peers. In the first district, the farmers regularly introduce new species of mint that the CIMAP in Lucknow has improved the cultivar, and increase the yield for mint crystals. In the second district, the farmers abandoned the practice and cultivate the endemic mustard seeds (Brassica nigra) instead because it is more lucrative, and are remunerated along the same lines as mint, i.e. they receive cash in hand. In addition, they collect sugar cane (Saccharum officinarum), also endemic, which sugar cane mills collect. However, in the case of sugar cane, the trade is regulated by the government and farmers are remunerated directly through bank payment. Thus, beside sugar cane, there is no system in place that compels the intermediaries, and end users to make the payment. The farmers do not receive any compensation beside cash in hand from the intermediaries, and have no knowledge about the ABS scheme.
Therefore, flaws in the legislation include: lack of clear ABS guidelines that may apply to diverse cases (i.e. large scale cultivation with regularly introduced new plants for better yield vs endemic medicinal plant collected from the wild), lack of simplified information readily available to promote the farmers’ awareness, and a lack of systematic registration of users and manufacturers that bypasses all ambiguities related to ABS.

In Morocco, the government ratified the Nagoya Protocol in 2022; the means of attribution have yet to be determined.
Women traditionally proceed to the collection of Argan nuts. However, the cooperatives are struggling over the Argan resource, as the trade of Argan nuts seems to be exploited mainly by middlemen. Corporations/international markets tend to secure the resource, a situation that has been greatly aggravated since the Covid 19 crisis. The “exploited” resource lies in the hands of intermediaries to serve larger markets, corporations supported by a legislative structure that facilitate the transactions. In both case studies, these arrangements facilitate market capture through corporation forces.
Key words: Access to Benefit Sharing, Argan, mint farmers, legislation, local communities, natural resources, rural women.

Montanari B ; Handaine M. & J. Id Bourrous. (2023). Argan oil and Access to Benefit Sharing: A matter of economic survival for rural women of the Souss Massa, Morocco. Journal of Human Ecology. (in press).
Montanari B; Shukla A; Perez R.M; and A. Maurya (2023), Forthcoming. Sustainability (TBC).
Workshops at the Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah University, Fes.
Two forthcoming policy briefs for India and Morocco once the articles are published.
Workshop: "Rencontre sur le Partage des Avantages avec les Femmes des coopératives d’Argan”. Accès au Partage des Avantages, Protocole de Nagoya ; Etude de cas : APA & Femmes des coopératives d’Argan Souss-Massa (EU).
Summary of the workshop- IUCN November Newsletter (iucn_abstract_newsletter_nov_2022_0.pdf.)
“Returning benefits to communities: “Unravelling the intricacy of applying Access to Benefit Sharing (ABS) for communities in India and Morocco”;Amizuth Culture and Politics in Muslim Context seminar series and the Circle of Studies on South Asia.
Advancing the knowledge related to ABS implementation and regulation is vital for both countries. Given the important contribution of farmers to supply the mint trade and of the women working in Argan oil cooperatives, returning Access to Benefit Sharing is vital for improving both the economic conditions of the farmers and women.
It is essential that the ABS directives in both countries be explicitly and clearly applied. In India, the outcomes must be reflected in the ABS policies; in Morocco, the case study can purposely serve as a model to open a critical reflexion of how sustainable development can be achieved for professionals (NGOs, researchers, teachers and lay people) working at a local level.
Women proceed to the breaking of Argan nuts. © B. Montanari 2021