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The Bushbuckridge BCP: traditional health practitioners organise for ABS in South Africa (PLA 65)

With a history of uncompensated bioprospecting, the Kukula traditional health practitioners of Bushbuckridge, South Africa are faced with both marginalisation and an emerging ecological crisis from the overharvesting of medicinal plants. But they have staked their claim to rights through the development of a biocultural community protocol (BCP), to secure access to medicinal plants for healthcare, prevent overharvesting and gain benefits from commercial use. The BCP shows clearly the challenges faced by health practitioners from external agents – such as businesses and government – and calls for the community’s rights over its land, resources and knowledge to be respected.

With support from Natural Justice, the process was initiated by a small group of healers, which discussed concerns about the illegal harvesting of medicinal plants, collected information and facilitated further discussions. As a result of the participatory process to develop the protocol, a healers’ association was established with almost 300 members, bringing together dispersed communities and two different cultures and language groups, with a representative committee for negotiating with others. The healers have also gained some access to medicinal plants in a protected area which was previously completely sealed off.

The article appears in Participatory Learning and Action 65 on Biodiversity and culture: exploring community protocols, rights and consent.

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