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Kenya losing billions of money through Bio-piracy

20 November 2014, 13:06 Robert Chepkwony

Nakuru - Gaps in legislation, low awareness and weak institutional capacity building has led to Kenya losing billions of money due to biopiracy, especially microbial genetic resources that are widely used globally for industrial purposes, hence the need to focus on streamlining research and development, policy and legislative framework through Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) mechanism.

According to Kavaka Mukonyi, head of bioprospecting at the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), Kenya does not have substantive national Access Benefit Sharing (ABS) laws.

Addressing a KWS and partners’ workshop on microbial bio-prospecting project at a Nakuru hotel, Mukonyi said the project is responding to the biopiracy cases heard at Kenya’s soda lakes such the famous Lake Bogoria one.

“The market for bioprospecting is about 800 billion dollars worldwide. In Kenya we do not benefit from it hence we just have to check if we can benefit from it,” he said, adding that the project would focus on streamlining research and development, policy and legislative framework through ABS to reduce poaching.

Kenya has been a victim and subject of poaching debates at global level including, with the famous one being the Lake Bogoria case, KWS versus Genencor/Proctor and Gamble Company.

“The recent benefit sharing case where KWS handed over 26 000 US dollars as part of royalties from the Novozyme realized from bioprospecting is part of the first example and milestone achieved under the implementation of the Nagoya protocol,” said Mukonyi, funds that have supported payment of school fees for 250 students adjacent to Lake Bogoria.

During the Global Environmental Facility-Nagoya Protocol Implementation Fund (GEF-NPIF funded workshop), Mukonyi said the initiative would be a model project for access to genetic resources, their utilization and sharing of accruing benefits within the framework of Nagoya protocol.

His sentiments were echoed by Francis Mulaa, a biochemistry professor at the University of Nairobi and chief principal of Garissa University College who said the project would support the implementation of the Nagoya protocol on ABS through mainstreaming of the country’s ABS legislation while utilising her microbial generic resources within the protected soda lakes for research, development and commercialisation of industrial enzymes.

“It will also help in utilising bio-pesticides for improved resource management and livelihoods in compliance with the Nagoya protocol on ABS,” said Prof. Mulaa.

The Nagoya protocol entered into force on October 12, 2014 with 54 parties ratifying the protocol on May 1, 2014 hence becoming part of Kenyan law as per the constitution and viewed as a major landscape for realisation of the green economy in national development goals.

And as the KWS grapples with matters poaching, Mukonyi proposed urgent review and development of ABS domestic legislations, policies and institutional arrangements for purposes of compliance and enforcement.

He said the only existing law is the subsidiary ABS legislation 2006 under EMCA1999 which needs to be realigned with the constitution and Nagoya protocol and now the wildlife Act which has tried to address elements of ABS as stipulated under the Nagoya protocol.

While KWS is pushing for strengthening of the protected area systems, mainly soda lakes in Kenya’s rift valley region to understand ABS with the local communities, Mukonyi said there will be need to train communities on capacity to negotiate and end in a proper agreement.

However, Mukonyi said the main challenge is having a proper institutional depository granary for collected microbial, saying there is the need to strengthen the one that is currently at Jomo Kenyatta University.

The workshop brought together key government officials, policy makers, local communities and project partners both locally and internationally.

- MyNews24

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