From 3-6 May, Johanna von Braun (Natural Justice) co-facilitated the first Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) Capacity Development Workshop for African lusophone countries in Maputo, Mozambique. The workshop was hosted by the Ministério para a Coordenação da Acção Ambiental (Mozambique’s Ministry for the Coordination of Environmental Action) as well as the ABS Capacity Development Initiative for Africa (ABS Initiative). Approximately 35 participants from Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, and Mozambique included the ABS focal points of each country and other government officials, as well as representatives from the scientific community, civil society organizations, traditional healers, NGOs, and the private sector. During the course of the workshop, participants went through a range of presentations and group discussions on the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the recently adopted Nagoya Protocol, and the challenges of implementing the Protocol in an effective manner. Presentations were given by international experts from the Brazilian government (Juliana Santilli and Krishna Barros Bonavides), from the Fridtjof Nansen Institute in Norway (Morten Tvedt), and from Natural Justice (Johanna von Braun). Overall, the workshop provided for ample space to exchange a wealth of experiences and knowledge from participants from the region.
During the course of the week, participants visited the newly established Centro de Investigação e Desenvolvimento em Etnobotânica (CIDE, Centre for Research and Development in Ethnobotany), located outside of Maputo in Namaacha. The Centre, established by the Ministry of Science and Technology in Mozambique, has large gardens with both native and non-native medicinal plants and is in the process of establishing a laboratory that can engage in the scientific analysis of these plants and support early processing stages such as the extraction of essential oils. In Namaacha, participants were divided between a visit to the Centre and a range of other presentations by Mozambican stakeholders, ranging from public research institutions, NGOs, and the private sector, all of whom shared their experiences as they relate to ABS. These practical examples provided some useful food for thought for the rest of the workshop when thinking about the challenges that governments have to face when designing and implementing a national ABS policy and system.
At the end of the workshop, participants highlighted the need for further assistance in this new and complex field. Particular emphasis was paid to the nature and need for more support in the Portuguese language, as this is one of the primary reasons that many of the lusophone African countries often do not benefit from much of the technical assistance provided on the continent, which is mostly provided in French and English. Participants agreed to maintain the newly established links among the four participating countries to ensure a continuing exchange of experiences in relation to ABS.