|A case of biopiracy: inequitable use of Kibira National Park snakes
by Wivine Ntamubano, Faculty of Sciences, University of Burundi
Name and type of genetic resource (GR):
Kibira snakes (Dendroaspis jamesoni, Naja melanoleuca, Boedon fulginosus, Bitis gabonica, Bitis nasicornis, Dasypeltis scaber, Phylotamnus sp, Atheris nitchei); Kibira is an ombrophilous forest located between 2000 m and 2700 m of altitude and rich in biodiversity.
Local community: The Batwa are autochtone people who live in and around the Kibira National Park. They know the forest and its biodiversity, thus they know the places where these snakes hide and hold the knowledge on how to capture them alive and in full safety. The livelihood of the Batwa traditionally depends much on the basic natural resources .
Institut National pour l’Environnement et la Conservation de la Nature (INECN): a national institution in charge of protected areas, managing the CITES Convention and CBD national focal agency.
Local NGO: AHEB is an environmental and herpetological association. Its main objective is to protect reptiles by the mean of ex situ conservation . Despite their good will to conserve, they take this opportunity to sell some of them abroad.
Trade Agencies: The national company “Serpents des Grands Lacs”as well as European and American agencies: “Reptilworld”, “Ferme Tropicale” and “Herpetofauna”
How the genetic resource is used:
Local populations use the snakes in traditional medicine and for ornemental purposes .When exported, they are sold to zoos, and museums for exhibition as well as to laboratories and individuals. Note that in normal circumstances, Burundians do not consume snake meat.
Type/kind of ABS agreement:
There is no ABS agreement. INECN grants a licence of exploitation to the NGO, which agrees to pay a tax of 20% on the sales. AHEB pays to the Batwa people 10% on the sales.
Agreed Benefits in the agreement:
Does not apply
Benefits realized to date:
The trade of the reptiles started in 1986. Given the multiple uses of this genetic resource, it difficult to know the actual profits accumulated for these years. AHEB claims that it has not get any benefit in the last few years, giving the reason that the transport of snakes was too long and unsafe since the direct flights to Europe were suspended.
Direct contribution to poverty alleviation:
The Batwa people obtain 10 % on the sales. They can use this sum to provide for their needs (clothes, food). Although this activity brings some income to this population, the Batwa remain very poor and stripped. The key fields of development for this community (education, employment, health ) are not satisfied.
Lessons learned to date:
This example highlights how the management of genetic resources is conducted in Burundi. Access to genetic resources is easy, but the government, the local communities don’t receive equitable benefits from the use of those resources.
Communities have no knowledge on benefit-sharing emanating from access to genetic resources. Thus no initiatives at the grassroots’ level are geared towards preventing biopiracy. Although Burundi ratified the CBD, some of his rehabilitating activities are not honoured yet. Burundi has already set up a National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan as but up to now did not begin with the necessary capacity-building activities to implement the strategy.
The concept of equitable benefit-sharing remains a new concept for the local populations and holder of traditional knowledge. It is also new for decision makers, who do not yet understand the political and commercial importance of genetic resources Therefore, there is a need for capacity building at all levels (individual and institutional, local and national)
public information on ABS management.
ABS regulations and ABS good management to use the benefits of this management in the struggle against poverty.
What changes would have made the difference:
The sensitizing of the public at all levels on the potential value of the commercial exploitation of the genetic resources and on their potential and durable value.
A national ABS framework.
As the law making process is slow, mechanisms for access and benefit sharing should be defined and applied while waiting for them to be incorporated in new legislation.
A specific legislation on the genetic resources based on the concept of access to the resources and sharing of the advantages or an adaptation of the legislation which already exists to the current context .
The promotion and the protection of intellectual property rights (IPR) on the genetic resources and traditional knowledge: Some of the snakes have medicinal values already known by the Batwa community, which shares their knowledge freely without asking for equitable benefit-sharing. If the IPRs are elaborated and guaranteed, it will ensure an equitable benefit-sharing from the use of the genetic resources and related knowledge.