Protecting community rights over traditional knowledge

Project
Archived
2004 - 2012

The current system of intellectual property rights is designed to promote commercial and scientific innovation. It offers little scope for protecting the knowledge rights of indigenous peoples, traditional farmers and healers, whose survival requires collective – not exclusive – access to new knowledge and innovations.

Farmers sharing potatoes in the Potato Park near Pisaq (Sacred Valley), Peru

Many communities face increasing threats to their resource rights due to the spread of western intellectual property rights (IPRs), often through Free Trade Agreements. If IPRs are granted too easily they can confer rights over community resources to others and do not require consent or benefit-sharing when community resources are used.

They can also limit the rights of farmers to use, sell or exchange a bio-resource, which can be a serious problem if your livelihood depends on it.

This action-research project, which ran from 2004-09, developed tools to allow communities to maintain control over their knowledge and related bio-resources, helping them to take advantage of market opportunities and preventing them from being exploited and misappropriated.

What IIED did

This project explored the customary laws and practices of indigenous and local communities to identify appropriate mechanisms to protect their resource rights and knowledge systems.

It involved participatory research at community level to strengthen local capacity and develop local tools for protecting traditional knowledge – including biocultural registers, biocultural community protocols and biocultural products.

It also informed policies on traditional knowledge and biodiversity at local, national and international levels, and developed the concept of collective biocultural heritage, which provided the common framework to link different studies on this theme in China, India, Kenya, Panama and Peru.

Watch a short film that explores the status and threats to biocultural heritage, and the responses needed, on IIED's YouTube channel, or below:

Publications

Heritage on the edge: protecting traditional knowledge and genetic resources in the Eastern Himalayas, India, Ruchi Pant (2012), IIED Report/paper

Protecting traditional health knowledge in Kenya: the role of customary laws and practices, Paul Ongugo, Doris Mutta, Mohamed Pakia, Peter Munyi (2012), IIED Report/paper

Community biocultural protocols: building mechanisms for access and benefit sharing among the communities of the Potato Park based on Quechua customary norms (detailed report), ANDES (Peru), the Potato Park communities (2012), IIED Report/paper

Community biocultural protocols: building mechanisms for access and benefit sharing among the communities of the Potato Park based on Quechua customary norms (summary report), ANDES (Peru), the Potato Park Communities (2011), IIED Report/paper

Implementing farmers' rights under the FAO Treaty on PGRFA: the need for a broad approach based on biocultural heritage, Alejandro Argumedo et al (2011), IIED Report/paper

Traditional knowledge in context, Krystyna Swiderska (2011), IIED Reflect & Act

The role of biodiversity, traditional knowledge and participatory plant breeding in climate change adaptation in Karst mountain areas in SW China, Yiching Song and Jingsong Li (2011), IIED Report/paper

Equitable benefit-sharing or self-interest? Krystyna Swiderska (2010), IIED Opinion Paper

Use it or lose it: protecting the traditional knowledge, genetic resources and customary laws of marginal farmers in SW China, Jingsong Li and Yiching Song (2010), IIED Report/paper

Displaced and marginalised: protecting the traditional knowledge, customary laws and forest rights of Yanadi tribals of Andhra Pradesh, S. Vedavathy (2010), IIED Report/paper

Protecting traditional knowledge from the grassroots up, Krystyna Swiderska (2009), IIED Briefing

Protecting community rights over traditional knowledge: implications of customary laws and practices. Key findings and recommendations 2005-2009, Krystyna Swiderska, Alejandro Argumedo, Yiching Song, Jingsong Li, Ruchi Pant, Heraclio Herrera, Doris Mutta, Peter Munyi, S Vedavathy (2009), IIED report/paper

Protecting community rights over traditional knowledge: implications of customary laws and practices, Krystyna Swiderska (2009), IIED Event/workshop report

Protecting community rights over traditional knowledge: implications of customary laws and practices (2008), IIED Event/workshop report | en español

Protecting indigenous knowledge against biopiracy in the Andes, Alejandro Argumedo and Michel Pimbert (2006), IIED Report/paper

Protecting community rights over traditional knowledge: implications of customary laws and practices. Emerging case study findings and recommendations, Krystyna Swiderska, Ruchi Pant, Alejandro Argumedo, Yiching Song, Doris Mutta, Peter Munyi, Heraclio Herrera, S Vedavathy, Jacob Nellithanam (2006), IIED Report/paper

Protecting community rights over traditional knowledge: implication of customary laws and practices (interim report), Krystyna Swiderska, Alejandro Argumedo, Ruchi Pant, S. Vedavathy, Jacob Nellithanam, Peter Munyi, Doris Mutta, Yiching Song, Heraclio Herrera, Hector Barrios (2006), IIED Report/paper

Banishing the biopirates: a new approach to protecting traditional knowledge, Krystyna Swiderska (2006), IIED Report/paper

Protecting traditional knowledge: a framework based on customary laws and biocultural heritage, Krystyna Swiderska (2006), IIED Report/paper

Traditional resource rights and indigenous people in the Andes, Alejandro Argumedo and Michel Pimbert (2005), IIED Report/paper

Research planning workshop (Cusco, 2005). Protecting community rights over traditional knowledge: implications of customary laws and practices (2005), IIED Event/workshop report | en español

Protecting community rights over traditional knowledge: implications of customary laws and practices (report of the planning workshop) (2004), IIED Event/workshop report

Additional resources

Project website: bioculturalheritage.org

Video: Traditional knowledge rights: heritage on the edge (2017)

PLA65: Biodiversity and culture: exploring community protocols, rights and consent, guest edited by Krystyna Swiderska with Angela Milligan, Kanchi Kohli, Harry Jonas, Holly Shrumm, Wim Hiemstra, Maria Julia Oliva (2012), Participation, Learning and Action Journal

Guest blog: BBC Viewpoint: Could things for biodiversity go from bad to worse?, by Krystyna Swiderska (July 2010)

Donors

2004 - 2009

International Development Research Centre (Canada)

The Christensen Fund

Stockholm Resilience Centre (SwedBio)

2009 - 2012

DANIDA

Irish Aid

Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA)

Partners

Centre for Chinese Agricultural Policy

Ecoserve, Delhi

Herbal and Folklore Research Centre (HFRC)

Kenya Forestry Research Centre

International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology

Fundacion Dobbo Yala

Asociacion ANDES

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