STATUS QUO BIOTRADE IN VALUE CHAINS
Over the years, the joint activities of CeSaReN and the ABS Initiative have included several pilot activities promoting the development of value chains based on Beninese traditional knowledge and the associated biodiversity. For instance, the project supported a partnership between local traditional healers in the Ouémé region and domestic research laboratories, which promoted the sale of certified medicinal products in Benin as well as in the subregion. At the strategic level, the ABS Committee drafted some initial key points for a valorization strategy, drawing on analyses of research activities based on Beninese genetic resources and traditional knowledge and of commercial actors engaged in the country. However, it was eventually decided to first focus on the development of a legal framework and to gain practical experiences with its implementation before continuing further strategic work on valorization. If the opportunity arises from incoming access requests, CeSaReN and the ABS Initiative will start working on specific value chains under the current grant agreement.
Status Quo ABS
The government of Benin has been committed to the implementation of ABS since the early stages. All related work is based on the country's ABS strategy, which was elaborated in a thorough and highly participatory process in 2012 and 2013 and officially adopted in 2015. Benin signed the Nagoya Protocol in 2011 and became a Party in 2014.
After the ratification, the authorities in charge wanted the Nagoya Protocol to become operational as quickly as possible. Therefore, Benin decided to develop an interim ABS regulation before moving to the lengthier procedure of developing a fully-fledged ABS law. This interim regulation, the Directives APA (ABS Directives), was adopted by means of an interministerial decree and came into force in 2017. Importantly, the Directives APA cover the scope of ABS both under the Nagoya Protocol and the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA), making a practical contribution to the two instruments’ mutually supportive implementation. Accordingly, the Ministries responsible for the environment and for agriculture have the lead in matters related to ABS.
When it comes to the assessment of access requests and related decision-making, the role of the competent national authority is currently played by an ad-hoc committee. Apart from the two lead Ministries, this ad-hoc committee involves a flexible range of members representing other relevant Ministries and institutions, depending on the subject of the documents to be assessed. A guiding document and a visualization for users are also available, which explain and illustrate the steps they need to take to obtain an ABS permit.
The development of the ABS system was paralleled by the development of the first community protocols. Both the legislative and the community processes were accompanied by CeSaReN, which ensured that experiences from the local level were taken into account when developing the measures at the national level. Thanks to this combination of local experiences and participatory processes at the government level, Benin’s ABS system acknowledges the important role of local communities and officially recognizes community protocols as tools that have to be respected in ABS. Furthermore, users interested in accessing Beninese genetic resources and/or associated traditional knowledge that are managed or held by a local community are obliged to enter into a memorandum of understanding with said community before requesting access with the government. This ABS system established by the interim regulation is operational and has already produced several ABS permits. In early 2020, Benin published its first internationally recognized certificates of compliance on the ABS Clearing-House.
More information on the interlinkage between ABS, BioTrade and sustainable value chains here.