The villages of Faleseela and Aopo are now better equipped to protect their genetic resources and traditional knowledge from being exploited, and to fairly and equitably share any benefits that may come from the use of these resources. These two villages are the first in Samoa to have their own biocultural community protocols on access and benefit sharing related to traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources.
The creation of these protocols, and other relevant national policies, have been made possible under the Global Access and Benefits Sharing (ABS) Project which was funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
The Faleseela Biocultural Community Protocol and Aopo Biocultural Community Protocol and other documents produced under the project were launched in March 2021. These documents included the Guidelines on Access and Use of Traditional Knowledge associated with Genetic Resources of Samoa, and the Biodiscovery Partnership Analysis Report for the sustainable management and protection of Samoa’s natural resources.
In his address during the launch, Prime Minister and Minister for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE), Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, highlighted the importance of incorporating sustainability into every aspect of development, especially for the environment.
“The products launched today are important for the sustainable management of resources but also to ensure equal access and and sharing of any benefits derived from these resources for the community,” said the Prime Minister. “Government supported this project to protect our natural resources for sustainable development, now and for our future generations. I acknowledge UNDP and the Secretariat of the Pacific’s Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) for the financial and technical help through this project which has helped Samoa achieve what it needs to do.”
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 Polynesia. Since the country became a party of the Nagoya Protocol of the Convention of Biodiversity in October 2014, MNRE-Division of Environment and Conservation, as the implementing partner of the project, has been working with support from UNDP as the implementing Agency, and the Global ABS Project Team to provide it with greater legal certainties, clarity and transparency for both providers and users of genetic resources including associated traditional knowledge.
“Through this project's available resources and valuable support from key implementing partners, we are propelling Samoa towards successfully implementing the Nagoya Protocol on ABS aligned to national priorities. UNDP is also supporting local and indigenous communities in the development of bio-cultural community protocols and for them to negotiate ABS agreements to utilize their genetic resources including associated traditional knowledge. The ultimate aim is that successfully commercialized products that utilized genetic resources, including associated traditional knowledge, should deliver significant economic, social and environmental benefits to the providers and owners of these resources,” said UNDP Resident Representative, Jorn Sorensen.
The ABS is a three-year global project with 24 participating countries, including Samoa, that began in 2017. ABS manages research into the 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 many others.
The project focused 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 project also worked with the regional ABS project in collaboration with organisations such as SPREP. “We hope the work of the ABS project has contributed to the sustainable management of resources in the Pacific and in Samoa to ensure equal access and benefit sharing of traditional knowledge and resources through the ABS global and regional projects,” said the Director General of SPREP, Leota Kosi Latu.
The project focused on the villages of Aopo in Savaii and Faleseela in Upolu due to the rich diversity in their natural resources and ecosystems.
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