Celebrating the first-year anniversary since the launch of the UNDP-GEF Global ABS Project for Sustainable Development, a National Stakeholder Workshop took place at the Taumeasina Island Resort, organized by the Division of Conservation and Environment of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE-DEC) to present the preliminary findings and relevant information to develop Samoa's Biodiscovery and Traditional Knowledge Guidelines as well as a Traditional Knowledge Database to an array of stakeholders from practitioners and experts to state actors, researchers, academia, NGO’s, and development partners such as UNDP, SPREP, FAO, UNESCO.
In his keynote address, the DEC Assistant CEO Seumaloisalafai Afele Faiilagi said, “The workshop today is an opportunity for our colleagues and consultants to share with us some of the preliminary findings of the work being done under the Global Access Benefit Sharing project for Samoa (ABS). In particular, on bio-discovery and traditional knowledge including development of Traditional Knowledge and Genetic Resource Database to facilitate the storage and management of data.”
Samoa’s flora consists of 500 species of native flowering plants and about 220 species of ferns, making it one of the most diverse flora in the Polynesia. Since the country became a party of the Nagoya Protocol of the Convention of Biodiversity in October 2014, MNRE-DEC, as the implementing partner of this project has been working with support from UNDP as the implementing Agency with funds from the Global Environment Faciity (GEF) and the Global ABS Project Team to provide with greater legal certainties, clarity and transparency for both providers and users of genetic resources including associated traditional knowledge (TK).
According to Mr. Alphonse Kambu, the expert in TK invited to present his findings at the workshop, “Samoa possesses useful traditional knowledge that is already contributing positively to numerous sectors including agricultural, fisheries, health care or medicinal and climate change and adaptation sectors” adding that is a positive step that “MNRE is working with UNDP and other international and regional development partners to establish enabling environments and strengthen existing mechanisms to develop the potential of traditional knowledge and preserve it for use by the future generations in Samoa”
The ABS is a global project, with 24 participating countries, including Samoa that began in 2017 and is intended to be ongoing for 3 years. ABS is basically managing research into genetic and bio-chemical makeup of living things (Genetic Resources or GR’s) that can lead to new drugs, foods, plastics, biofuels or industrial enzymes among others.
“The database model I presented adds value to Samoa’s assets by providing a legal certainty on any export of species while safeguarding the wealth of Traditional Knowledge and associated genetic resources acquired by our ancestors for the well-being of future generations” commented Mr. Toleafoa Chris Brown, the IT expert invited to present his findings at the workshop.
The project focuses on strengthening the legal, policy and institutional capacities to develop national ABS frameworks; building trust between users and providers of genetic resources to facilitate the identification of bio-discovery efforts; and strengthening the capacity of indigenous and local communities to contribute to the implementation of the Nagoya Protocol on ABS.
The main speaker, Mr. Geoff Burton from the United Nations University, introduced the ABS within the context of the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Nagoya Protocol, stressing the importance of Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits arising from their utilization.
“We are hoping that our work can lead to discovering new information and/or developing new products or processes in the pharmaceutical, nutraceutical, cosmetic, agricultural as well as other sectors” said Mr. Burton, whose work focuses on biodiscovery, which is the scientific research on the genetic or biochemical make-up of a plant, animal, fungus or microbe with the purpose of developing a product or process that has commercial or other value.
For further information, please contact:
Ms. Czarina Stowers, Project Manager, Division of Conservation and Environment of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE-DEC)
Ms. Tessa Tafua, Programme Officer - Environment and Climate Change Unit, United Nations Development Programme