From the Partners: Testimony for the ABS Project
22 May, 2020
By SS Rasaily, Member Secretary, Uttarakhand Biodiversity Board
“The Indo-German ABS project in Uttarakhand was of great help and support to UBB, I wish the project could have lasted longer, so that we could jointly take up more work on ABS.”
The concept of Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) in the Convention of Biological Diversity is not very difficult to understand. But when it comes to implementation, both the concerned officials and the Users of bioresources face many challenges. The Uttarakhand Biodiversity Board (UBB) has been at the forefront of signing many ABS agreements with the User industrial units. Over the years, we’ve realised that the industries willingly come forward to share benefits if they understand the ABS concept properly. Since UBB enforces the implementation of the ABS provisions, the board felt the need for external support to soften our approach and facilitate the link between UBB and the industries. Limited staff and lack of qualified extension officials were some challenges we faced. This is where the 3.5 years Indo-German ABS project in Uttarakhand played a crucial role. The project not only disseminated the ABS concept, it also successfully convinced the User agencies of the benefits they would derive from the ABS agreement.
I would like to highlight some of our remarkable collective successes during these short 3.5 years of partnership:
- The overall capacity building of stakeholders and development of good practices on different aspects of ABS was commendable. This case study was also shared for the Indian Prime Minister’s Mann ki Baat programme.
- The Media workshop and Radio Series helped the board in reaching a wider audience in the state and spread the message of biodiversity conservation and ABS.
- Model BMCs formed under the project helped UBB in standardising PIC (Prior Informed Consent) and MAT (Mutually Agreed Terms) procedures. The board has already received its first five PIC and MAT applications. These will be one of the first cases of PIC and MAT in India.
- The project acted as an effective facilitator between UBB and the Users, or industries and traders. Various workshops conducted as part of the project gave the Board a platform to talk about the Biodiversity Act and communicate the benefits of ABS for industries and traders.
- The Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) forum for ABS developed under the project will help UBB to sustain its rapport with industries.
- The project helped in developing the capacities of the Biodiversity Management Committees (BMCs) through green-skilling, improving their livelihoods through value addition (processing units and dryers) and developing market linkages.
- Workshop on certification helped in value addition and traceability of bioresources in the state.
- The value chain analysis survey conducted in the state under the project helped in understanding the status of tradable bioresources in Uttarakhand, their location and the existing value chain, which will help in ABS.
- Criteria for identifying potential bioresources for ABS was developed, which will be used by UBB.
- Ten participatory People’s Biodiversity Registers (PBRs) were developed as part of the project and will serve as a standard for replication.
- The GIZ team was instrumental in the signing of an MoU with GB Pant National Institute of Himalayan Environment (NIHE) for the training and capacity building of BMCs on negotiating terms and implementation of an ABS agreement. NIHE is a national institute with an international reputation dedicated to the study of Himalayan ecology and development.
- First attempt to document traditional knowledge systems in Uttarakhand was completed under the project. A documentary on the rapidly vanishing traditional practice of fashioning wooden utensils from the wood of Sandan (Desmodium oojeinense) and Gethi (Boehmria rugulosa) trees has been made. This unique tradition is locally known as Chunare.
- Another landmark achievement facilitated by GIZ is the MoU between UBB and Law College, Uttaranchal University. As part of the MoU, the Biodiversity Act has been included in the course curriculum of law students and a certificate course for industries, legal professional and practitioners has been launched.
The Indo-German ABS project in Uttarakhand was of great help and support to UBB, I wish the project period would have been for five years so that we could jointly take up more action-oriented work on ABS, aim for long term impacts on the communities, and biodiversity conservation in the biodiversity-rich state of Uttarakhand.
On behalf of the Uttarakhand Biodiversity Board, I thank GIZ, Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change and the National Biodiversity Authority for selecting Uttarakhand as one of the pilot states. Their effective cooperation led to the successful implementation of the project. I would also like to express my sincere gratitude to the hard-working GIZ team: Mr Anil Joshi and Dr. Pradeep Mehta under the able leadership and guidance of Dr. Aeshita Mukherjee.