Two Limpopo communities are set to receive a combined R2.6m for helping with the development of a non-carbohydrate sweetener.
Schlerochiton ilicifolius, the scientific name of a local plant known as Molomo monate, is one of the plants researched by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research over the past 27 years and turned into a consumable product.
The investigation by the CSIR found that the indigenous plant was 1 400 times sweeter than regular sugar.
CSIR Research and Development Outcomes manager for biosciences, Tshidi Moroka, said the communities of Shongoane and Seleka, north-west of Polokwane in Limpopo, participated in the project and were eligible for royalties.
The CSIR scientists investigated the properties of the indigenous Molomo monate (loosely translated as “nice mouth” in Sotho) by extracting and characterising a non-carbohydrate sweetener.
Moroka said the payment would be made to the National Bioprospecting Trust Fund, and from there disbursed to the communities.
“Based on an analysis of the CSIR’s historical milestone and royalty income streams, and taking into consideration directly attributable costs in generating such income, and in negotiations with the communities and the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), it was agreed that an amount of R2.6m will be paid to the indigenous knowledge holders,” says Moroka.
The CSIR, through its wholly owned subsidiary, Technifin (Pty) Ltd., signed a licence agreement with multinational company Cargill in 2004 and received milestone payments in 2004, 2006 and 2013, which can now be shared with the identified communities.
In 2008, after the bioprospecting and benefit-sharing regulations were promulgated, the CSIR applied for a bioprospecting permit for Molomo monate, which was granted in 2012. This was one of the first such permits to be granted in South Africa.
“The two communities of Shongoane and Seleka, with whom the benefit-sharing agreement was concluded, were identified through the above process and, with the assistance of the DEA, that agreement was gazetted in the Government Gazette. All benefits will be paid into the National Bioprospecting Trust Fund, which will manage further distribution,” says Moroka.