Partnerships for Access and Benefit-Sharing in India

15 December 2020

By: Dr Geetha Nayak, Advisor, GIZ | Neha Owaisy, Junior Communication Officer, GIZ

The virtual closing event of the Indo-German ‘Access and Benefit-Sharing (ABS) Partnership’ project on 15 December 2020 presented the achievements of the project and experiences of the partners and beneficiaries. The four-year project was commissioned by theGerman Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), implemented in partnership with the Indian Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) and the National Biodiversity Authority in 2016. The event witnessed participation of representatives from MoEFCC, National Biodiversity Authority (NBA), State Biodiversity Boards (SBBs) and Biodiversity Management Committees (BMCs) of Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Uttarakhand, private sector, GIZ Germany and India and civil society organisations.

The objective of ABS Partnership project under the Indo-German Biodiversity Programme was to strengthen the capacity of the NBA, SBBs and BMCs in three Indian states- Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Uttarakhand. It also aimed to create awareness amongst commercial users of biological resources and associated traditional knowledge for the effective implementation of ABS mechanisms under the Biodiversity Act 2002, in keeping with India’s commitments under the Nagoya Protocol on ABS.

“We know that short duration technical cooperation projects cannot address all the implementation challenges in a large country like ours. I hope the NBA and SBBs will scale up these lessons in the effective of implementation on the Biodiversity Act, 2002”, added Ms B. V. Umadevi, Additional Secretary, MoEFCC, in her inaugural address. She also launched a publication titled “Communication Strategy for Access and Benefit Sharing in India – A handbook for decision-makers and practitioners”. The publication offers practical guidance on how to communicate ABS to a range of stakeholders. It provides a step-by-step approach to delivering targeted communication, starting from assessing and planning the production and action & reflection phases.

The project engaged three approaches:

  • Awareness-raising and dialogues across different stakeholders on creating a better understanding of the Biodiversity Act 2002, ABS Guidelines and Nagoya Protocol on ABS
  • Developing good practices on benefit-sharing among communities based on the use of biological resources for commercial or research purposes
  • Developing an IT-enabled ABS monitoring system (ABS-MS) for the NBA for tracking the use of biological resources in ABS processes

“..in all three achievements whether it is the IT Tool, the communication strategy or setting up a pool of trainers, the project has been very successful”, noted Dr V.B. Mathur, Chairperson, NBA, “we hope that this will lead to engaging more people in ABS. This is the kind of partnership we need to build!”

The ABS-Monitoring System was launched on 22 May 2019 by the Hon’ble Vice- President of India, Shri Venkaiah Naidu on the International Day of Biodiversity. Pilot test run of the tool has identified nearly 3 lakh users of Indian biological resources in research and patent. The project, along with national, state and local partners has developed a framework and studies of good practices of ABS, and a stakeholder-wise communication strategy for ABS in India. Over 70 stakeholder-specific training and workshops have also been conducted in the three states, and five sector-specific guidance documents for ABS compliance have been developed for academic research, AYUSH, biotechnology, cosmetics and seeds sectors.

The project had supported 30 BMCs in three pilot states. Members of Panchayat and Biodiversity Management Committees – Ms. Prachi Kadam Sarpanch of Devale village, Ms. Jyoti Kumoti, BMC Member, Chicholi, Gadchiroli, Maharashtra, Ms. Lakshmi BMC Chairperson (Kariapatti) & Dr. Subananthan, BMC Member (Sedapatti) from Tamil Nadu, Mr. Rajendra Singh Mehta, BMC Khitoli, Pithoragarh and Ms. Kamla Devi, BMC Jamrari, Pithoragarh, Uttarakhand participated and shared about activities of their BMCs.

Mr. Rajendra Singh Mehta, BMC Khitoli, Pithoragarh expressed the need for continued support to BMCs achieve self-reliance and guide them in levying collection fees on biological resources collected from their region. Ms. Lakshmi, Chairperson of BMC, talked about the documentation of People’s Biodiversity Registers carried out with the support of the project which helped the local communities to identify biological resources traded from their village. Dr. Subananthan, BMC Member (Sedapatti) thanked the project for the guidance in the submission of their application for “India Biodiversity Award” in 2020.

“We want to see more and more of this kind of project… We will try to disseminate the information through NBA, different kind of workshops and other states as much as possible so that these models can be replicated, and the lessons learnt can be utilised for the best implementation of ABS. India could be the role model for the entire world with the resources that we have”, commented Dr Sujit Bajpayee, Joint Secretary (Biodiversity), MoEFCC during the event.

Officials of State Biodiversity Boards of Tamil Nadu (and Uttarakhand also talked about the progress made in the implementation of ABS in the state, in the aspect of training and capacity building, conducting business dialogues etc. They also recognised unique interventions of the project such as Training of Trainers, training and communication materials, dialogue format to engage with business (users of biological resources) which supported the SBBs and their partners in capacity building for implementation of ABS.

The project has engaged with many companies in three states and industry associations to create awareness on provisions of the Biodiversity Act, and developed good practices of ABS, obtained inputs for developing sector-specific guidance documents. Company representations from Dabur, Bioseed Research India and industry associations namely, India Business and Biodiversity Initiative, Federation of Seed Industry of India informed companies are increasingly aware of mandates under the Biodiversity Act and acknowledged the support of NBA/SBBs in faster processing of applications, however, clarity on scope and mode of benefit-sharing still needed. They also requested NBA/SBBs to consider non-monetary benefits for ABS compliance.

India continues to be Germany’s biggest development partner with a proven track record of successful project implementation. The event concluded with reflections by Mr Ravindra Singh, Director, Indo-German Biodiversity Programme, GIZ that “the nature of projects is always that the project ends, but partnerships and cooperation continue, and we are looking forward to continuing our wonderful cooperation and partnership with MoEFCC, NBA, and our commitment to biodiversity in India.”

©GIZ/Suddhabrata Chakraborty