The latest of the very useful newsletters from , of which Crops for the Future is a member, provided a link to this report on “The protection of Geographical Indications (GI): Generating Empirical Evidence at Country and Product Level to Support African ACP Country Engagement in the Doha Round Negotiations”.
The report describes the legal infrastructure, motivating factors and trade/IPR environment deemed conducive to successful GI use in several Sub-Saharan countries, as well as costs and benefits. It notes that “in the absence of international agreements providing for the protection of traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions, [……..] GIs can provide a legal structure to affirm and protect the unique cultural values embodied in traditional artisanal and agricultural skills that are valued forms of expression for a particular community”.
Aside from the usual candidate products for GI protection such as coffee, cocoa, tea, raw sugar and honey, which account for most of the report, there is also mention of a number of less well-known products with potential for GI protection: yams in Nigeria (presumably Dioscorea spec.), a sea shell providing the “Yett” condiment (Senegal), Argane oil (Morocco), Shea butter, tree bark cloth, etc. While focusing on the economics and markets for GIs, the report also deals with sustainable exploitation of the biological resources used for GI products.
Starting on p. 51, the report lists a number of limitations and difficulties associated with GIs. It notes that a GI protection will not be able “to radically change the situation and solve all problems faced by the farmers or producers concerned. Putting too much expectation on the GI protection only and neglecting other key aspects or strategies could even constitute a risk to the development of a given branch of activity or region. […] It should be underlined in particular that, in the absence of democratic governance structures, the value added brought about by a GI may not be capitalised by regional interests or small farmers”. We believe such caveats should not be misunderstood as a vote against GIs, but rather as a very balanced discussion of an under-utilised instrument of rural development. As other tools, methods and activities, GIs may entail trade-offs rather than the elusive “win-win” situation.