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As a technical Communication, Education and Public Awareness (CEPA) activity the Initiative supported the compilation of a compendium of the ABS legislation in six African countries, i.e. Cameroon, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa and Uganda. The ABS compendium seeks to provide an experience-sharing platform and provide a practical tool for countries who have no existing national ABS legislations. These countries might benefit from the approaches and practical experience which other countries have taken. The compendium was launched during a side-event at the tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP 10).

Uganda acceded the Nagoya Protocol in 2014.

Country diagnostic

In 2015, the ABS Initiative conducted a country diagnostic in Uganda to assess the status quo of national ABS and Nagoya Protocol implementation. The results of this assessment are presented in five clusters below:

  • ABS environment

  • ABS frameworks

  • ABS greements

  • Participation of indigenous peoples and local communities

  • Way Forward

The results - to be found below - are the basis for a roadmap for the ABS Initiative’s national ABS implementation support. 

ABS environment

ABS environment

Uganda is a landlocked country located where seven of Africa’s biogeographic regions converge, making it a country with a high level of biodiversity.

The country acceded to the Opens internal link in current windowNagoya Protocol in June 2014, ratified the Opens internal link in current windowInternational Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) and is Party to the Opens external link in new windowCBD.

Uganda has also put in place national ABS relevant policies and legislation, including an ABS regulation and accompanying guidelines.

The 2005 ABS regulation is well structured and has clear and definite procedures. It recognizes the Opens external link in new windowUganda National Council for Science and Technology (UNCST) as the competent national authority (CNA). The Council itself has a clear understanding of its role and seeks to ensure clarity and establish concrete ABS procedures and tools.

There exists a highly cooperative culture amongst authorities and institutions, including between environment (Opens external link in new windowNational Environment Management Authority, NEMA) and agriculture (Opens external link in new windowNational Agricultural Research Organization, NARO).

Opens internal link in current windowIndigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs), their genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge (aTK) are fully covered by the ABS framework.

IPLCs receive recognition in the environmental law system  but do neither engage in valorisation of their genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge nor participate in the few existing small businesses that distribute local cosmetica on the domestic market. National scientists engage with local communities and traditional healers without being bound by ABS rules to ensure benefit sharing based on ABS contracts. Also, governmental approaches to promote business incubation and science-business relationships are not well developed.

Nevertheless, the regulatory and institutional setting is favorable for ABS business engagement but only resulted in one commercial ABS agreement on the industrial use of sandalwood for oil extraction yet.

ABS frameworks

ABS frameworks

Uganda has signed and ratified all the relevant international conventions and protocols on ABS, namely the Opens external link in new windowConvention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Opens internal link in current windowNagoya Protocol and theOpens internal link in current window International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA).

The clear and well-structured ABS relevant regulatory measures are conducive to collaboration between main ABS actors. The legal basis for both, the Regulations and the Guidelines, was laid with the Opens external link in new window1995 National Environment Act that provides for guidelines and measures “for the sustainable management and utilization of the genetic resources”. Ancillary legislations, with indirect or case-to-case relevance to ABS, have been adopted: the Opens external link in new windowUganda Wildlife Act, the Opens external link in new windowLand Act and the Science and Technology Act.

The regulatory pillar is the Opens external link in new window2005 National Environment (ABS) Regulations, which not only recognizes the Opens external link in new windowUNCST as the competent national authority (CNA) but also prescribes the procedure in accessing genetic resources for scientific research, commercial purposes, bioprospecting, conservation or industrial application. It further provides for the sharing of benefits derived from genetic resources and promotes sustainable management and utilization of genetic resources. The 2009 ABS Guidelines provide for detailed description of the ABS system and described the applicable procedures.

The 2015 memorandum of understanding (MoU) among Opens external link in new windowNEMA, UNCST and Opens external link in new windowNARO complements the ABS regulations as it details the relationship and division of responsibilities between these core ABS relevant institutions.

The CNA, for instance, facilitates the negotiation and conclusion of material transfer agreements and ensures that sufficient benefit sharing provisions are included therein. In addition it makes certain that representative samples and specimens of genetic resources collected are deposited in Uganda and that the person accessing genetic resources undertakes technology transfer and information exchange. With the exception of the CNA, most institutions did not yet automate their parts in the application and permit issuance process.

The Opens external link in new window2007 ABS Guidelines specify the provisions of the ABS regulations with the goal to enable “simple arrangements and procedures”. The Guidelines specifically mention the obligation of the collector to share benefits arising from the Opens internal link in current windowintellectual property rights (IPR) accruing from genetic resources. In general, all benefits need to be shared based on mutually agreed terms (MAT) ensuring fairness and equity. Applicants for accessing genetic resources must adhere to a certain schedule in obtaining a PIC and entering into accessory agreements and materials transfer agreements (MTA) with the lead agency, local community or the owner of the resource. Foreign applicants do not require a local collaborator. Nevertheless, local communities receive special protection as they have the right to ask for benefits from knowledge and information they have provided with respect to genetic resources. A major gap in the system is opened by exempting national researchers to apply for PIC and negotiate MAT for domestic research against the background of the well-established cooperation system of these researchers with foreign institutions. If such cooperation would lead to the export of the nationally accessed genetic resources, PIC and MAT had to be sought. While the vast majority of this collaborative research indeed operates under research permits by UNCST, a formalised system to make the researchers apply for ABS permits does not exist.

Despite the well elaborated regulatory and legal ABS environment there is still room for improvement in order to make Uganda’s ABS system more effective and efficient for the benefit of all national ABS stakeholders.

One major gap: the ABS framework is not fully compliant with the Nagoya Protocol. For instance, the regulations  not provide for a checkpoint and an effective monitoring system for users under Ugandan jurisdiction.

While protection of traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources (aTK) is mentioned in the regulations and guidelines, provisions for a clearly defined system of protection do not exist. This system should be strengthened.

Although ex-situ collections outside Uganda fall within the scope of the law, clear provisions for accessing these materials in collaboration with the foreign ex-situ collections are missing. Clarity on PIC processes and benefit sharing would help the ABS process in this regard.

ABS agreements

ABS agreements

As mentioned in the chapter about the ABS framework in Uganda, despite some gaps, the framework is well defined and clearly structured with definite procedures. The Uganda National Council for Science and Technology (UNCST) as the competent national authority (CNA) has a clear understanding of its role and brings clarity to many ABS relevant procedures, such as online application.

Despite these favorable conditions providing substantial opportunities for natural product valorization, only one ABS agreement on Sandalwood oil has emerged. Other ABS relevant value chains comprise gum arabic, shea butter, Prunus africana, Mondia whitei, and species of Psorospermun, Warburgia and Aloe.

In the case of Sandalwood oil extraction the agreement between Government and the private sector took more than two years to negotiate and is subject to frequent inspections through government authorities. Moreover it is valid for a 5-year term concession only.  Initially the agreement was concluded with the relevant local government offices carrying out the benefit sharing arrangements. This proved to be unsatisfactory due to very high overhead costs for government procedures which were deducted from the incoming monetary benefits. Ultimately the agreement was successfully re-negotiated with the local Forestry Department.

In addition to the agreement mentioned above there are following facts and information on ABS agreements in Uganda available (as of June 2015):

  • 3-4 research permits for natural sciences/biodiversity are issued per month

  • 10-15 research permits for health issued per month

  • Only one agreement in place for commercial activities – Skybeam/Sandalwood

  • The UNCST has difficulties tracking and tracing possible commercial activity arising from permits issued

  • So far there is no tangible link between commercial activities arising out of research permits and their translation into benefit sharing.

  • Research on the basis that the material stays in Uganda is exempt from needs for MTAs and thus tracking the research undertaken is virtually impossible.

  • Accessing the right information on how to achieve Prior Informed Consent (PIC) seems to be a challenge

Participation of indigenous peoples and local communities

Participation of indigenous peoples and local communities

Uganda has a quite strong ABS framework which fully covers IPLCs and associated traditional knowledge (aTK): local communities are clearly defined, traditional knowledge explicitly included and procedures for granting PIC and negotiating MAT are established through the 2007 ABS Guidelines. Land and resource rights of IPLCs are part of the customary land tenure system. IPLCs actually negotiate access to resources in protected areas (PA), not least because concrete benefit sharing systems exist between the authorities and local communities for entry fees in protected areas.

Despite these favorable regulatory prerequisites IPLCs have not been involved in any ABS cases. BCPs or other community procedures are non-existent albeit, as stated above, community-related procedures are defined in various laws and regulations. While awareness of the ABS process at the local level is very low in general, the local communities know of the potential value of their traditional knowledge for science and industry. The low level of recognition of local communities in business value chains seems to be partly rooted in lack of coordination and cooperation between them. On the other hand, local communities and NGOs cooperate quite well in securing their interests and coping with regulatory frameworks.

ABS cases with the participation of IPLCs could potentially be built upon the elaborate legal and procedural system. That applies all the more as governmental authorities are prepared to engage with local communities. In terms of capacity building some IPLCs already received training in negotiating access to PAs for small scale logging, hunting and NTFP collection

In the specific case of Prunus africana bark some IPLCs became aware of related business potential and expressed their wish to participate in the value chain.

Way forward

Way forward

An analysis of the ABS environment in Uganda – assessing the status of the regulatory framework, the potential for ABS compliant value chains as well as the involvement of local communities – revealed promising strengths and opportunities, but also challenges that need to be addressed to implement the Nagoya Protocol fully and create a functioning ABS system.

Based on the results, stakeholders, among them the ABS Focal Point, members of various institutions and representatives of IPLCs, identified potential interventions to advance the implementation of ABS in Uganda.

Possible interventions at the political level

Conduct a thorough legal gap analysis on the existing ABS laws and regulations to make it compliant with the Nagoya Protocol (the ABS Initiative’s 2012 gap analysis of the “African Model Law for the Protection of the Rights of the Local Communities, Farmers and Breeders and for the Regulation of Access to Biological Resources” laid the basis for the Practical and Strategic AU Guidelines from 2015)

Support updating ABS legislation, also based on the gap analysis.

Advise in incorporating the protection of aTK into legislation

Backstop the development of procedures in the TK protection system

Possible interventions at the technical Level

Support the establishment of ABS-compliant value chains:

  • involvement of IPLC and users from the EU
  • preferentially dealing with Prunus africana and traditional medicinal plants with aTK
  • emonstrate working practice on PIC and MAT
  • conduct specific resource assessment linked to these cases and subsequent resource Management

Support the creation of an IT-based application and monitoring System

Conduct analysis of publications and patents with genetic resources from Uganda, cross check with permit data

Conduct study on the nature and type of access permits to identify user groups and develop targeted capacity development measures

Complement existing material transfer agreements and Opens external link in new windowCITES permits with ABS clauses

Bring together academia, communities and in order to understand the needs and lead to investment interest

Create awareness of:

  • knowledge on national and relevant international ABS regulations and the requirements of the Nagoya Protocol
  • path to access genetic resources and revenues to communities (PIC, MAT)

Stakeholders from different sectors to be addressed: academic research, local, regional and international industry as well as local, regional and national government entities.