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Tropentag, October 5 - 7, 2004 in Berlin

"Rural Poverty Reduction
through Research for Development and Transformation"

Are Bioprospecting Benefit-Sharing Schemes an Option for Rural Poverty Reduction? an Enquiry about the Kani Community of Tropical India

Vijesh Vijaya Krishna, Unai Pascual

University of Cambridge, Department of Land Economy, United Kingdom


The creation of markets in environmental goods and services is attracting increasing interest in the policy arena. The creation of markets for bioprospecting is often advocated as means for counteracting the erosion of biodiversity as well as heralding indigenous knowledge (IK) by providing economic incentives to the indigenous communities. This paper presents a benefit-sharing study from a bioprospecting experience in which an indigenous community has obtained monetary compensation for sharing their IK on the medicinal plant Trichopus zeylanicus. The data used in the analysis was collected in 2004, in order to examine the impacts of a bioprospecting benefit-sharing scheme on the living standards of the Indian Kani tribes. The Kani is primarily a semi-nomadic community, who now leads a settled life in the forests of the Western Ghats, in tropical India. While the Kani community is rich with respect to its ethnobotanical knowledge, income poverty is prevalent with an average annual per capita income of US$152. Furthermore, whereas the benefit sharing scheme was originally expected to provide the Kani settlements with improved public goods, the institutional impediments have resulted in a partial implementation of the plan. Furthermore, the analysis reveals that around an annual US$1 million has been forgone in benefits to the communities from imparting their IK. In this regard, opinion documentation was obtained from Kani households about their IK and attitudes towards the existing benefit-sharing agreement and other potential bioprospecting contracts. This case study provides some policy recommendations with respect to the involvement of indigenous communities in drug discovery processes in order to help create more adequate bioprospecting endeavours in developing economies.

Keywords: Benefit-sharing, bioprospecting, Kani Model, Rural poverty reduction, Tropical India

Contact Address: Vijesh Vijaya Krishna, University of Cambridge, Department of Land Economy, Fitzwilliam College, CB3 0DG Cambridge, United Kingdom, e-mail: vvk25@cam.ac.uk

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