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Strategy for Bioprospecting in Kenya

Date Published: 11 Oct, 2010
Strategy for Bioprospecting in Kenya

Members of the team at the Biodiversity workshop

A team of technical experts drawn from various lead Government Institutions involved in biodiversity research, conservation and management in Kenya have concluded their first round of preparation of a strategy for Bioprospecting in Kenya’s Protected Areas. 

In a workshop held from 3rd to 8th October at SaiRock Hotel in Mombasa, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) spearheaded the development of a strategy for Bioprospecting mainly for Protected Areas in Kenya, over which the Service has jurisdiction regarding management and conservation of biological resources. Other participants were drawn from University of Nairobi, Moi University, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture     and Technology (JKUAT), Pwani University, the National Museums of Kenya (NMK), Kenya Forest Research Institute (KEFRI) and the Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPRI). 

Bioprospecting involves the systematic search for biological resources for valuable components in terrestrial and marine organisms for scientific research and commercial development. When bioprospecting is pursued without knowledge and prior consent of the owners of the resources, and without sharing benefits accruing there-from, it is called biopiracy. Within the Kenyan protected areas, biodiversity loss continues unabated due to scientific, technical, technological and financial barriers that have led to increased biopiracy.

The global market’s dependence on biological and genetic resources is estimated to be over USD 800 billions, mainly from pharmaceutical, biotech, agriculture, personal care, and food & beverage industries. Whereas bioprospecting is considered an industry with great economic potential, Kenya remains a by-stander. Worse still, Kenya is known to be one of the countries with huge economic potential for biodiversity research and industry, but some of the indigenous knowledge in biodiversity health, environmental conservation, food and industrial products has largely been ignored. In addition, the country continues to lose valuable biological and genetic materials, some of which have been collected and deposited in local and foreign depository centres without the appropriate framework for monitoring, enforcement and compliance. Many of these biological materials have been used to develop products that are commercialized and are generating enormous profits in foreign countries.  

There are cases of documented biopiracy in Kenya. One of the commonly cited cases is the enzyme puradex cellulose, derived from extremophiles bacterium, which was collected from Lake Bogoria and commercialized for manufacture of detergents. The other notable example includes SE50, a bacteria strain collected from Ruiru Dam in 2004 and commercialized in the manufacture of Acarbose, an anti-diabetic drug for management of type II diabetes. Products developed from these cases have generated millions of dollars, with no documented benefits to Kenya.

In order to mainstream bioprospecting for maximum benefits to the country the Service is taking leadership in formulating the Strategy for Bioprospecting within and outside wildlife protected areas, that will provide structures and systems to effectively and efficiently manage and regulate bioprospecting activities in Kenya.

Development of the strategy is informed and guided by the following principles:

  1. International cooperation as negotiated within the frameworks of international conventions, agreements, treaties and protocols related to biodiversity.
  2. Sustainable Development as articulated in the Agenda 21 of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
  3. Compensated bioprospecting within the regime on Prior Informed Consent (PIC) and Material Transfer Agreement (MTA) as articulated in the Addis Ababa Principles and Guidelines, 2004 of CBD Equitable access and benefit sharing as articulated in the CBD.
  4. Precautionary principles as articulated in the Rio Principles 1992 of CBD and the Constitution of Kenya, 2010.
  5. Benefit to Kenya, guided by the Bill of Rights in the Constitution of Kenya, 2010
  6. Respect for property ownership that includes intellectual property rights, encompassing indigenous knowledge as articulated in the Constitution of Kenya, 2010
  7. Indigenous Community values and stability as articulated in the Constitution of Kenya 2010.


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