Traditional knowledge plays an important role in cultural ecology, including resource management, such as in agricultural techniques of enhancing production of plants and animals and controlling their lives by domestication and fertilization.
Today, however, I will look at another branch of intellectual property which in my opinion has not been given adequate consideration in Zambia. Geographical indications,Â inÂ thereÂ simplestÂ form,Â areÂ signsÂ thatÂ recogniseÂ theÂ linkÂ betweenÂ aÂ productâ€™s reputation,Â qualityÂ orÂ someÂ otherÂ characteristicÂ andÂ itsÂ geographicalÂ origin. EnvironmentalÂ attributesÂ and/orÂ localÂ knowledgeÂ usedÂ inÂ theÂ productionÂ ofÂ these products give rise to unique product characteristics that are signalled through the GI.
TheÂ justificationÂ forÂ protectingÂ theseÂ distinctiveÂ signÂ results,Â asÂ inÂ theÂ caseÂ of trademarks,Â is fromÂ theÂ economicsÂ ofÂ informationÂ andÂ reputation.
Examples of geographical indications in Zambia are Mongu rice, that is,Â Mongu is a geographical location where we find a distinctive or rather special kind of rice (referred to as a product) .
Others include Kawambwa tea, Nakonde rice, Mukwa tree, Kapenta from Siavonga, and many others.
Why does Zambia need a legal framework?
GIsÂ conferÂ theÂ rightÂ ofÂ exclusiveÂ useÂ toÂ those producers withinÂ the demarcatedÂ region whoÂ comply withÂ theÂ productionÂ practices.
It is a common practice in Zambia to make improvements on a product without recognising the owners of that product. For example, manufacturing companies add ingredients and package Mongu rice without seeking permission from the Barotse Royal Establishment.
If this practice is unmonitored ,the long-term effect is that the original product will subsequently differ from the product on the market.
Improved market access through differentiation and value creation
In a context of increased competition onÂ commodityÂ markets,Â decreasingÂ market pricesÂ andÂ changingÂ consumerÂ preferences,Â itÂ hasÂ becomeÂ necessaryÂ toÂ findÂ an alternative approach to the production and marketing of agri-food products.
In line with endogenous development theory, GIsâ€™ ability to give rise to rural development processes derives from its link with the territory.
GIs reflect, by definition, a strong association between a product and its territorial origin in that the product derives its characteristics from the regionâ€™s unique environment, including climatic and human factors.
Preservation of traditional knowledge
It is argued that the unique characteristics of GIs make it more appropriate for the protection of traditional knowledge than other forms of IPR
Preservation of biodiversity
Biodiversity preservation is not a direct objective of GI protection. It has been argued, however, thatÂ itÂ mayÂ inÂ someÂ instancesÂ beÂ anÂ outcomeÂ ofÂ theÂ GIÂ process
37 members, composed of developed and developing countries, have signed proposals advocating GI protection at the WTO to be expanded to agricultural products.
Developing countriesÂ increasingly valueÂ GIs as an instrument contributing to a remunerative marketing of an agricultural production based upon traditional cultivation methods.
Persistent resistance to this extension may therefore communicate an unfortunate message to those countries about the realpolitik of the international intellectual property regime
Registered African GIs in the country of origin:
Both Kenyan coffee and tea are registered in Kenya through certification marks
There is a pending application for a GI on Argan oil from the Souss Massa Dra
region in Morocco
African GIs registered in third countries:
Rwandan coffee – registered by an individual as US trademark number 3378503 for â€˜The land of a Thousand Hills Coffee Handpicked in the Republic of Rwandaâ€™
Ethiopian Coffee â€“ registered or in the process of being registered in 28
countries around the world including the EU
Third-world countriesâ€™ GIs registered in Africa
â€œChampagneâ€ appears to have been registered in the 16 African countries that are members of OAPI.
InÂ conclusion,Â itÂ isÂ undisputedÂ thatÂ thereÂ areÂ significantÂ benefitsÂ attachedÂ toÂ GIs. Achieving these dynamics is, however, not a simple process and is dependent on how the process is implemented, protected and exploited.
This requires concerted efforts by the Zambian government, non-governmental organisations, Parliamentarians and producers. Zambia, like other developing countries , shouldÂ take noteÂ thatÂ the socio-economicÂ dynamicsÂ of GIsÂ should be adequately juxtaposedÂ andÂ thatÂ theÂ impactÂ of GIsÂ isÂ likelyÂ toÂ varyÂ fromÂ Â Â productÂ toÂ product.
The author isÂ a postgraduate researcher in intellectual property law with the World Intellectual Property Organisation.