Making fair and sustainable use of biodiversity

Project description

Title: Promotion of economic potentials of biodiversity in an equitable and sustainable way for the implementation of the Nagoya Protocol in Central America and the Dominican Republic (Access and Benefit-Sharing, ABS)
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Central America and the Dominican Republic 
Lead executing agency: General Secretariat of the Central American Integration System (SG-SICA) with the Central American Commission for Environment and Development (CCAD)
Overall term: 2014 to 2019

Access and benefit-sharing. The search for plant-based substances is important for the pharmaceuticals industry. © GIZ


Although Central America accounts for only around 0.5 per cent of the world’s total land mass, the region is home to more than seven per cent of the world’s biodiversity. These natural resources are severely threatened by climate change and rapid population growth. Launched in 1992, the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) aims to secure access to genetic resources while ensuring the balanced and equitable sharing of any benefits derived from their use (access and benefit-sharing, ABS). In 2010, the majority of the signatories to the CBD approved an international environmental agreement to this end, the Nagoya Protocol. This Protocol attempts to balance the interests of the countries of origin of the genetic resources – usually developing countries or emerging economies – with those that use the genetic resources – mostly industrialised countries. It came into force in October 2014 and has since been ratified by a total of 117 states (as of 30 March 2019; source: CBD), including Germany in 2016.

The Protocol also takes into account the traditional knowledge that indigenous and local communities usually have and that plays a particularly important role in the region. It is often women who hold this traditional knowledge. In order to implement ABS and the Nagoya Protocol effectively and efficiently, conditions need to be established, and uncertainties regarding opportunities and risks need to be clarified.

Genetic resources provide the basis for a large number of commercial and scientific products, for example. This includes applications in biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, horticulture, seeds, fertilisers, pesticides, food and drinks. It is a pressing issue in Central America: governments in the region want to prevent the illegal use of these resources by foreign researchers and companies, known as biopiracy. A number of civil society organisations and indigenous communities are also protesting against the notion of placing an economic value on their livelihoods.


The member states of the Central American Integration System (SICA) – Belize, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama – are implementing initial measures to promote the fair and equitable sharing of benefits derived from the sustainable use of genetic resources and the traditional knowledge associated with them.

ake El Salvador as an example: access and benefit-sharing contributes to rural development. © GIZ


Over the course of 52 months between 2014 and 2019, the project initiated training courses, information events and specialist meetings at both the regional and national level. These events provided an opportunity for policy-makers and representatives of law enforcement, civil society and the private sector in particular to acquire expertise and learn about the opportunities and risks involved in accessing and using natural genetic resources. The project improved and developed strategies and general legal conditions that serve as a guide for SICA member states and enable them to benefit from their genetic resources to a greater extent.

The project assisted several countries in the region in initiating processes aimed at improving the national political, strategic and legal frameworks for implementing the Nagoya Protocol. It also provided support for national dialogue on the issue, sharing positive international experience and proposals for implementing the processes. Working with local people at the community and province level, the project presented examples of how countries can use biodiversity products or those derived from genetic resources to their greater economic and social advantage. The results have been submitted to the local and national governments. This has created incentives that contribute to the protection and sustainable use of biological resources.


Up to March 2019, 2,147 people (including 1,064 women) in ministries, law enforcement authorities and other institutions were given training in partnership with organisations such as the Secretariat of the CBD and the Indigenous Women’s Biodiversity Network. The general conditions and processes for ABS were improved in 13 new legal regulations, simplifications of the procedure for applying for use and other ABS instruments, thus creating greater clarity for resource providers and users alike. Costa Rica is the first country to offer users the ‘ABS Costa Rice Biobenefits’ label. In 2018, the Dominican Republic adopted an ABS implementing regulation for the simplification of procedures as well as a national ABS policy that, among other things, addresses the role of women in ABS value chains.

In April 2018, Guatemala incorporated ABS into the eligibility criteria for the granting of funding from the national nature conservation fund. At the regional level, the regional committee for ABS in Central America and Dominican Republic was established to encourage countries to share their experiences. 
The programme supported the ABS value chains of the morro fruit in Guatemala, Jarambe Brontox syrup in Costa Rica and coconut oil and Simada cedar in Panama. As a result, almost 250 people in Guatemala and Panama increased their income. Indigenous women also played a crucial role in development of the Morro chain by contributing to the evaluation of traditional knowledge and the preservation of flora in Rabinal (Guatemala).