Last update:

Khoikhoi and San peoples: Rooibos Access and Benefit-sharing Agreement, South Africa

The South African indigenous Khoi Khoi and San communities in Cederberg region were recognized as traditional knowledge holders to the uses of Rooibos through an industry-wide Access and Benefit-sharing Agreement of novel extent.


The South African indigenous Khoi Khoi and San communities of the Cederberg region have concluded an industry-wide Access and Benefit-sharing Agreement concerning the commercialization of Rooibos leaves as herbal tea. An Access and Benefit-Sharing Agreement is a legal tool ensuring equitable sharing of resources, including the monetary value these generate. It stems from the Nagoya Protocol of 2010 which serves as a supplement to the 1992 United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CoB) which South Africa ratified in 2004 nationally by adopting the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act and further detailed in the Bioprospecting Access and Benefit Sharing (BABS) Regulations of 2008 [1] [9]. The Nagoya Protocol seeks to implement the CoB’s objective of “fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources, including by appropriate access to genetic resources and by appropriate transfer of relevant technologies, taking into account all rights over those resources and to technologies, and by appropriate funding.” [2][12] and explicitly extends the application of Access and Benefit-sharing Agreements to traditional knowledge. The CoB defines traditional knowledge as "knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities embodying traditional lifestyles relevant for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity" [3]. 

See more
Basic Data
Name of conflict:Khoikhoi and San peoples: Rooibos Access and Benefit-sharing Agreement, South Africa
Country:South Africa
State or province:Western Cape
Location of conflict:Cederberg
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Biopiracy and bio-prospection
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Rooibos leaves, Traditional knowledge
Biological resources
Project Details and Actors
Project details

South Africa produces ca. 20,000 tons of Rooibos tea annually [8].

See more
Project area:8,007
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:190,000
Start of the conflict:01/09/2010
End of the conflict:25/03/2019
Company names or state enterprises:South African Rooibos Council (SARY) from South Africa - Represented the interest of the Rooibos industry in negotiations.
Relevant government actors:South African Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Natural Justice (
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Khoikhoi and San peoples
Forms of mobilization:Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Official complaint letters and petitions
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Negotiation of Access and Benefit-sharing Agreement
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Soil contamination
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Land dispossession
Potential: Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures
Other socio-economic impactsEnhancement of socio-economic inequalities
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Negotiated alternative solution
Strengthening of participation
Proposal and development of alternatives:An industry-wide Access and Benefit-sharing agreement has been concluded. It grants monetary and non-monetary benefits to the San and Khoi Khoi peoples. Both receive an annual levy of 1.5 percent on the ‘farm gate price’ paid to the DEA which equally allocates payments into two trusts account. Non-monetary benefits are subject to further detailing [11].
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain:The Rooibos Access and Benefit-sharing agreement recognizes the Khoi Khoi and San peoples as traditional knowledge holders and ensures their monetary compensation. A compromise has been found that allows monetary compensation while ensuring the competitiveness of the Rooibos industry [11]. Although indigenous community members are reported to hope for an improved revenue-sharing formula in the future [8].
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

[3] United Nations. “Convention on Biological Diversity.” (1992)
[click to view]

[12] Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity. “Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit-sharing”, United Nations Environmental Programme (2010)
[click to view]

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[1] Natural Justice. “The Rooibos Access and Benefit-sharing Agreement” (n.d.).
[click to view]

[2] Natural Justice. “San, Khoi & Rooibos Factsheet” (n.d.).
[click to view]

[4] Siyanda Samahlubi Consulting. “Traditional Knowledge Associated with Rooibos and honeybush Species in South Africa”, Department: Environmental Affairs: (2014).
[click to view]

[5] Morton, J.F. “Rooibos Tea, Aspalathus linearis, a Caffeineless, Low-Tannin Beverage” Economic Botany, 37, 2: (1983).
[click to view]

[6] Muffe, M.L. & Dakora, F.D. “Modification of rhizosphere oH by the symbiotic

legume Aspalathus linearis (“Rooibos”)”. SA Pharmaceutical Journal (2008).

[7] South African Government. “Environmental Affairs on study of rooibos and honeybush species in South Africa”, Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (May 19 2015).

[9] Wynberg, R. "Making Sense of Access and Benefit Sharing in the Rooibos Industry: Towards a Holistic, Just and Sustainable Framing." South African Journal of Botany 110 (2017): 39-51.
[click to view]

[11] Schroeder, D., Roger C., Collin L., Leana S., and Timothy H. “The Rooibos Benefit Sharing Agreement–Breaking New Ground with Respect, Honesty, Fairness, and Care.” Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 29, no. 2 (2020): 285–301.

[8] York, J. “As South Africa’s rooibos tea trade heats up, debate brews over how to give Indigenous experts a fair share”, The Globe and Mail (January 8 2022).
[click to view]

[10] Warkentin, E. “On the trail of South Africa’s miracle tea”, National Geographic. (August 10 2022)
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Johanna Tesch
Last update12/03/2023
Conflict ID:6286
Legal notice / Aviso legal
We use cookies for statistical purposes and to improve our services. By clicking "Accept cookies" you consent to place cookies when visiting the website. For more information, and to find out how to change the configuration of cookies, please read our cookie policy. Utilizamos cookies para realizar el análisis de la navegación de los usuarios y mejorar nuestros servicios. Al pulsar "Accept cookies" consiente dichas cookies. Puede obtener más información, o bien conocer cómo cambiar la configuración, pulsando en más información.