Ogiek Peoples’ Development Program (OPDP) held a workshop in Tanzania’s city of Arusha on October 2-4 focusing on strengthening the capacity of Indigenous Peoples’ (IPs) organizations in Africa to advocate for implementation of Access and Benefit-Sharing (ABS) mechanisms and Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC).

OPDP was the host organization with Ujamaa Community Resource Team (UCRT) co-hosting the workshop. International Land Coalition (ILC) principally funded the workshop while through a grant, Land is Life made it possible for some women IPs activists to attend.

More than 50 participants from 10 countries representing the IPs organizations, development partners and government agencies from East Africa, West Africa, Central Africa and Sudan were in attendance.OPDP is the lead organization on IPs issues under the ILC-Africa Chapter.

The workshop involved discussions on ILC’s fifth Commitment Based Initiatives (CBI 5); ABS concepts and guidelines and its necessity among the indigenous communities in Africa and Africa perspective on indigeinity and human rights and development in Africa.

Further, focus was also put on regional mechanisms for ABS; African Union Strategic Guidelines for the Coordinated Implementation of the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of the benefits arising from their utilization, application of the ABS and the Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) in Africa as well as the role of IP organizations and communities in developing ABS/FPIC protocol through community protocols.

Additionally, gaps and areas of conflicts for ABS between the IP communities, the State and the investors were explored. The participants also presented respective country perspectives on policy and legislative framework on ABS as well as their experiences in its application.

There was also a learning exchange visit to Selela village in Tanzanian’s northern district of Monduli  where UCRT has safeguarded the land rights of the Maasai through an innovative model of issuing Certificate of Customary Rights of Occupancy(CCRO) by which the community becomes a collective owner of the land and determines its use.

OPDP’s Executive Director Daniel Kobei opening remarks

In his opening remarks OPDP’s Executive Director Daniel Kobei said the workshop was realigned with the ILC’s CBI 5 which focuses on securing territorial rights for the IPs.

He reiterated the discussions to be very critical to building the capacity of the IPs towards establishing local based mechanisms for effecting ABS and ensure the communities benefit and progress.

“With the increasing discovery of resources especially in the lands and territories home to indigenous peoples, there is growing interest by many actors, including the government, to use these resources. Communities require to be capacity built to enable them to participate in meaningful consultation and decision regarding resources within the community lands and territories,” he said

He added: “The Training on ABS and FPIC will help local and indigenous peoples’ communities, private sector companies and governments ensure compliance with the Bonn Guidelines and ABS requirements under the Convention on Biological Diversity  (CBD).”

Kobei expressed great appreciation for ILC’s financial support in organizing the workshop. He also thanked Land is Life for its Indigenous-Led Grant which enabled OPDP to boost the workshop’s participatory bandwidth.

Please click here to listen to Mr Kobei’s full presentation

Safeguarding IPs rights to the natural resources

UCRT’s Programme Coordinator for Simanjore district Edward Loure echoed the importance of having discussions on strategies applicable to safeguarding IPs rights to the natural resources.

He said it was critical to look into ways of protecting territories within which the IPs live as they are rich of resources necessary to the advancement of indigenous communities.

Lucy Mulenkei, Executive Director of the Indigenous Information Network (IIN) led discussions on ABS concepts and guidelines and its necessity among the indigenous communities in Africa. She also dissected the role of IP organizations and communities in developing ABS/FPIC protocol.

She underlined how the CBD was established and the IPs contribution to ensuring that their interests were incorporated in the final document.

“We (IPs) had to lobby to work together and raise our voices collectively as a united Indigenous Peoples,” she said.

Inclusion of the ABS in the CBD is a success for the IPs that they ought to capitalize on to shape their own engagements with the investors and the governments, she said.

Mulenkei said it is difficult to operationalize international laws on ABS and FPIC without the guidance of domestic laws.

In this regard, the role of the IP organizations is therefore significant in engaging in country-level advocacy to ensure governments come up with appropriate laws and effect them, she remarked.

 “Communities that own these resources do not also know about these protocols. The locals need to be informed of what ABS and FPIC is all about and how they can utilize them when seeking for benefit sharing,” she said.

Watch the video ABS concepts and guidelines for more information on her the topic

Perspective on indigeinity and human rights and development in Africa

Elifuraha Laltaika, who represents Africa’s IPs in the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) took the participants through the Africa perspective on indigeinity and human rights and development in Africa.

He noted wildlife conservation and agricultural developments as major conflicting issues pitting against the land rights of the IPs in Africa.

“We see a lot of problems emanating from pastoralists’ lack of land to graze because their land was taken for other interests such as wildlife conservation and expansion of agriculture,” he said.

H said development priorities that are inconsiderate of the IPs interests endanger their progress with a long-term consequence being extreme poverty.

Aspirations for universal equality underscore inclusion of the unique aspects of the IPs so that they are similarly uplifted from the marginalized status as the world progress, he accentuated.

Please follow his discussion on the topic in this video

Nagoya Protocol

Lesle Jansen, Director of Natural Justice elaborated on regional mechanisms for ABS; African Union Strategic Guidelines for the Coordinated Implementation of the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of the benefits arising from their utilization. Jansen further insighted on application on ABS and FPIC.

Nagoya Protocol has guaranteed community rights in relation to sharing of benefits accrued from the genetic and biological resources, traditional knowledge and self-governance through the customary laws, she said.

She said IPs have a right to FPIC since they are the owners of the biological and genetic resources investors are searching for.

Her advice was for the indigenous communities to establish their own community protocols to provide a framework for negotiating and agreeing on benefiting sharing with the governments and the investors.

Please find her full presentation here.

Community empowerment

In his remarks, Kenya’s National Land Commission (NLC) Chairman Prof. Muhammad Swazuri said while communities are owners of the genetic and biological resources, they cannot fully benefit from them if they are unaware of the frameworks governing their access and use.

He said Article 11(2b) of the Kenyan Constitution recognizes the role of science and indigenous technologies in the development of the nation hence the importance of transferring knowledge and information on the relevant guidelines to indigenous communities.

“Actually, the communities do not know about these protocols and conventions. It is very important that they are empowered with these information to be able to understand how to benefit from their own resources,” he said.

Click here to have a view of his full remarks.

Gaps on ABS and FPIC implementation

In exploring gaps and areas of conflicts for ABS between the IP communities, the State and the investors; Shadrack Omondi, Executive Director of the Resource Conflict Institute (RECONCILE), noted that when government development priorities differ from those of the communities, grassroot economies stagnate  and the locals suffer the consequences.

Deficiency of information and knowledge on ABS and FPIC among the implementing stakeholders including the communities and line government ministries and agencies makes the process of actualizing its provisions futile, observed Shadrack.

Conflicts are bound to occur when none of the said backers are unaware of the existing protocols and conventions guiding on execution of ABS and FPIC.

 “Robustness (on advocating for ABS/FPIC implementation) at the international level defers from that at the country level. There is some kind of a loose link between the two and that needs to concern the IPs, practitioners and the civil society,” he said.

There must be strong structures for implementation of ABS and FPIC to be successful and beneficial to the community, Omondi stated.

His discussions on the subject is available here.

Country-level discussions

From presentations on country-level perspectives on policy and legislative framework on ABS merged with experiences regarding application of the respective provisions, it was observed that at least 50 African countries out of the 55 recognized by the African Union have ratified the Nagoya Protocol and domesticated it.Importantly, that the indigenous communities were utilizing the guidelines to gain value of own genetic and biological resources.

Representatives of IPs organizations from Cameroon, Congo, Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Botswana, Burundi, South Africa and Sudan made the presentations.

For instance in Cameroon, two genetic resources- Echinops giganteus and the mondia whitei-have been identified and are being exploited under the ABS process.

However, in other countries, community established bio-cultural to guide on exploitation of the genetic and biological resources with respect to the communities’ values and norms were non-existent.

For example, Uganda ratified Nagoya Protocol in 2014 but there lacks bio-cultural protocols or other community procedures on utilization of the said natural resources.

Way forward

Group photo of the participants in the ABS workshop in Arusha,Tanzania

There were recommendations for further building the capacity of the IPs organization, local communities, governments and investors in all the countries in Africa. Also mapping genetic resources; establishing national action plans and community friendly laws as well as strengthening public participation and encouraging land reforms at the country-level.

Balkissou Buba,vice national coordinator of Repaleac Cameroon, a network of indigenous and local communities that work for sustainable management of forest ecosystems in the Western Africa country;said the workshop offered a great platform for learning best practices in advocating for the land rights of the IPs in Africa.

By sharing country-level experiences on status of implementation of ABS and FPIC,the IPs rights advocates became more knowledgeable on appropriate approaches to apply in spearheading for IPs social justice, she said.

Edward Porokwo, Executive Director of Pastoralists Indigenous Non-Governmental Organizations (PINGOs) Forum in Tanzania, said it was important to discuss about application of ABS and FPIC in Africa considering the growing extraction of natural resources in the region.

He therefore noted the importance of establishing an ABS policy framework to to ensure communities benefit from wealth generated from natural resources in their localities.

Learning Exchange Visit

The participants visited Selela village in the district of Monduli in northern Tanzania where they learnt from the locals of how Certificate of Customary Right of Occupancy (CCRO) has secured them communal right to land and how they manage it through the community by-laws.

The area is primarily inhabited by Maasai, a pastoralist community which had no previous entitlement to land. However through UCRT’s advocacy efforts, the indigenous community has managed to secure the CCRO permitting the members to collectively decide how to utilize the land. The CCRO has been issued to the community instead of the individuals making it possible for the community to live in harmony with one another.

Memorable quotes from the workshop

“We share homes, we share pasture lands, and we share everything. Conservation is for our interest – we’ll fight to have the animals survive, because we love them.”~Elifuraha Laltaika

Indigenous Peoples of Africa Representative to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII)

“Land is like blood, if you don’t have it, you don’t sleep soundly.” ~Lucy Mulenkei

Indigenous Information Network, Executive Director



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