PhytoTrade Africa member, EcoProducts this week became one of only eleven companies in South Africa to receive a bioprospecting permit from the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) at the Biodiversity Economy Indaba held in Polokwane, Limpopo, South Africa.

EcoProducts is based in Limpopo Province and since 2006, it has been developing the supply of fair, ethical and sustainable baobab oil and fruit powder. Through rural community supply chains, the company harvests baobab, this unique African superfruit. EcoProducts is one of the first companies in the bio-trade sector in South Africa to gain organic status and to comply with national bio-prospecting legislation.

Sarah Venter, founder of EcoProducts said “I am grateful to DEA for their support and recognising the work EcoProducts is doing in the community – it feels more like an award that a permit. Receiving the permit shows that the DEA supports all the role players involved in utilising our indigenous resources sustainably and for the benefit of the people of our country. It is not just about business – it’s about all of us and our futures” Sarah continued.

Livhuwani Tshivhiyauvhi, one of the women harvesters, said “the permit that was awarded today shows a good future for our project. We are very happy that the Government has been so supportive”.

Few permits have been issued to date as the process is stringent and complex. The permit allows EcoProducts to collect baobab fruit and sell the fruit powder and seed oil with the full knowledge and permission of the South African government. As part of the permit ‘Access and Benefit Sharing Agreements’ are entered into with each of the communities from which EcoProducts collects baobab fruit ensuring that there are fair and equitable benefits to communities.

The permit is issued under the direction of the South African National Environmental Biodiversity Management Act which was created to comply with the Nagoya Protocol arising from the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity. Over the next few years, other Southern African countries will be implementing their own national legislation regarding the use and sale of biological resources which should lead to a global coherence regarding the use of natural resources.

PhytoTrade Africa CEO, Cyril Lombard also present at ceremony the said “PhytoTrade engages with national governments in Southern Africa to assist our members, their clients and industry to comply with this legislation. We really try to ensure that trade is enhanced rather than inhibited by these new regulations, and there are numerous other global regulations – such as Novel Foods – which local businesses and industry also need to comply with. There is still much to learn but this is a vital step in the delivery of ethical sourced, sustainable, legitimate and innovative natural products”.