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This note has been compiled to promote the sustainable use of Hoodia Gordonii in South Africa and to ensure that the indigenous people of South Africa benefit from the commercial development of products based on their traditional knowledge.
Hoodia Gordonii is a genus of succulent plants in the family Apocynaceae that is widely used traditionally by the San people of southern Africa as an appetite suppressant, thirst quencher and as a cure for severe abdominal cramps, haemorrhoids, tuberculosis, indigestion, hypertension and diabetes. Various uses have been recorded among Anikhwe (Northern Botswana), Hai om (northern Namibia), Khomani (north western South Africa), and the !Xun and Khwe (originally from Angola) communities. Less is known about the use of this group of plants by other indigenous people, but some records show limited use of Hoodia parts as food items, albeit not as preferred food items. Hoodias are known to be used for cultural purposes in some areas (Hargreaves and Turner, 2002). Although relatively difficult to cultivate, hoodias are attractive plants and are also used for horticultural purposes.
The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in South Africa isolated an active compound (P57) for appetite suppression from H. gordonii. The CSIR licensed the rights for further development of P57 and the setting up of a sustainable production system to Phytopharm in the UK. Phytopharm in turn sub licensed the rights to Pfizer for the development and global commercialization. Pfizer has recently returned the clinical developmental rights.
In terms of a benefit sharing agreement with the CSIR, all the San communities in the range States will benefit from the development of P57.
Hoodia Gordonii is being widely marketed as a commercial appetite suppressant. Some of the trade in Hoodia is illegal in terms of regulations in southern African countries and may also infringe on patent rights and benefit sharing agreements. This document provides information on Hoodia to promote sustainable and fair trade in Hoodia products.
Hoodia Gordonii species occur in summer rainfall areas in Angola, Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa as well as winter rainfall areas in Namibia (MET 2002). Only one species if found east of 26 degrees longitude, i.e H. currorii subsp. lugardii, which occurs in Botswana and the Limpopo province of South Africa. The centres of diversity for Hoodia are in Namibia (11 taxa) and South Africa (9 taxa).
Although the genus Hoodia Gordonii is widespread in southern Africa, herbarium records indicate that Hoodia gordonii only occurs in South Africa and Namibia. Any claims about other areas of distribution should be verified by a competent taxonomist.
Cultivation trials are currently underway in South Africa (under the auspices of the CSIR) and on a small scale in Namibia (National Botanical Research Institute). At present, only a small quantity of material has been harvested from cultivated material.
Some species of Hoodia Gordonii occur in very large populations over large areas. This includes H. gordonii, which is the species most sought after for trade. There are, however, other closely related species that are less abundant, occurring in isolated patches with an overall low density, and a relatively small distribution range. A relatively common feature is that most species have patchy distributions. The threatened status for some Hoodia species has been assessed recently (see Table) and ten of the 16 taxa have been classified as threatened in these assessments.
Hoodia species, including Hoodia Gordonii, are protected species in southern Africa. This means that permits are required for certain activities.
· Hoodia Gordonii does not occur in Botswana. Other Hoodia species are protected by the Agricultural Resources Conservation Act [CAP. 35:06]. Regulations for harvesting of veld products were published on 26 March 2004.
Hoodia Gordonii , as well as other species of Hoodia, are listed as protected species in Namibia.
· No harvesting is permitted until Namibia has reviewed the status of Hoodia species (national policy framework in progress).
· Namibian authorities are concerned that collectors are harvesting illegally and that the wrong species are being harvested (i.e. not H. gordonii)
According to current records, the natural distribution range of H. gordonii in South Africa is only in the Northern Cape province. There are also reports of other sites in the Western Cape.
Northern Cape Province:
Hoodia Gordonii , as well as other Hoodia species, are listed as a protected species under the Environmental Conservation Ordinance No.19 of 1974.
· People are not allowed to harvest/collect or damage, or collect seeds without a valid permit from the Permit Section of the Directorate of Conservation Service in the Northern Cape.
· Cultivation, transport and export requires a relevant permit from the same Permit Section.
· Any export requires a phyto-sanitary certificate. Phyto-sanitary certificates can be obtained from the National Department of Agriculture.
Western Cape Province
· Conservation status is the same as in the Northern Cape Province
· Permits are required for any harvesting or seed collection
Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa have submitted a proposal to the 13th Conference of the Parties of CITES to list all species of Hoodia on Appendix II. This will mean that importing countries will have to ensure that a valid export permit has been issued by the country of origin for any trade in wild harvested material.
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