GIZ ABS-COMIFAC Project: Assessing first agreements on ABS-related access to genetic resources in Cameroon
The first experiments with the Mutually Agreed Terms (MAT) on access to genetic resources and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the utilization of the Echinops giganteus and Mondia whitei plants have been evaluated. It emerged overall that the terms of the agreements between the signatories to the two MATs were being respected.
In 2012, the V. MANE Fils company which operates in the cosmetic industry, expressed its willingness to adhere to the ABS principles in using the roots of the plants Echinops giganteus and Mondia whitei, which it had already begun exploring much earlier. Thus the company decided to begin by establishing an ABS-compliant value chain in using Echinops based on Mutually Agreed Terms (MAT) and to do same with Mondia whitei. Both plants are grown respectively by the Magha and Lewoh people in Leibialem Division in the south - west region of Cameroon. Thus as part of the Echinops utilization operation, the GIZ Regional Project to support COMIFAC, facilitated the signing in May 2014 of a memorandum of agreement and in May 2015, the signing of Mutually Agreed Terms (MAT) for access, research/development and trade in the genetic material of the plant roots between MINEPDED, the Magha-Bamubu Community and V. Mane Fils. In April 2016, the same company began developing an ABS project through the signing of the Mutually Agreed Terms (MAT) with the Lewoh community for the research /development phase of Mondia whitie.
In order to verify proper implementation of the agreements, MINEPDED in collaboration with the GIZ ABS-COMIFAC project and UNDP conducted a monitoring - evaluation mission to assess the MATs within the framework of V.MANE Fils operations conducted in the Magha-Bamumbu and Lewoh communities and also in the company’s factories in Bars sur Loup - Nice in France in October 2017. At the end of the mission, a feedback meeting to report the findings of various actors was held on 10 November 2017 in Mbalmayo. It emerged from the feedback meeting that:
- Based on the terms of the MAT that were signed with V.MANE in the framework of research on/development of Echinops giganteus, the research /development phase is still in progress. However, other samples will need to be collected in order to fine tune the results of research conducted on by-products and eliminate toxins. Regarding the sale of essential oils, the company stated that it had committed not to launch any sales until it received Prior Informed Consent (PIC).
- The financial benefits have been respected, in keeping with the agreement. The harvesters, the cooperative, the council and the Magha-Bamumbu Community received full benefits to such an extent that they were able to furnish of the local health center with beds, tables and offices.
- The search for/development of Mondia whitei showed more promising and substantial results than Echinops. V. MANE plans to present them in the near future to potential customers to gauge their market value. Meanwhile research work using the CO2 extraction methodology continues.
- The sharing of benefits from profits comes mainly from the sale of the biological resource which means the people of the Lewoh community derive greater benefits from the sale of fresh roots of Mondia whitei which brings them substantial revenue in return for their harvesting efforts.
Having observed the positive momentum gathered by the ABS process, V. Mane signed a framework convention with the University of Dschang aimed at identifying five high potential plants to be used by V.MANE Fils in line with the ABS process. Thus in this connection, the Company decided to hand the equipment to the institution's Applied Botanical Research Unit (URBOA) Laboratory which will be extracting the essential oils of the said plants in Cameroon.
The lessons learned from these initial agreements regarding the utilization of genetic resources will undoubtedly be capitalized in the development of ABS legislation in Cameroon.