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SBC seals Benefit Sharing Agreement with Indigenous Communities to develop and commercialize essential oil from the rainforest for human and veterinary applications

Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia, October 17, 2020: The Sarawak Biodiversity Centre (SBC) today announced the signing of a Benefit Sharing Agreement (BSA) with the Bidayuh and Iban communities of Kampung Semadang (Padawan) and Rumah Simon (Lubok Antu), respectively, to partner on the development and commercialization of AdenoSara®, the essential oil of Adenosma nelsonioides (Bunga Ta’ang/Bangkit Engkerawan), for human and veterinary health and wellness applications.

 At a ceremony held today at the Kampung Semadang Community Hall, representatives of the Bidayuh community of Kampung Semadang (Padawan) and of the Iban community of Rumah Simon (Lubok Antu) were joined by representatives of SBC, the Sarawak Biodiversity Council and the Sarawak Ministry for Education, Science and Technological Research (MESTR) to sign a BSA established to govern the equitable sharing of any benefits arising from the joint development and commercialization of AdenoSara®, the essential oil of Adenosma nelsonioides, a plant known to the Bidayuh as Bunga Ta’ang and to the Iban as Bangkit Engkerawan.

This is only the second time such a ground breaking agreement has been signed in Sarawak or Malaysia, and represents the culmination of ongoing efforts since 2004 by SBC to establish a complete ‘jungle to consumer’ value chain based on the centre’s comprehensive Traditional Knowledge (TK) Documentation Programme. The ceremony also provided the parties with an opportunity to showcase the range of AdenoSara® products ready for commercialization or in the development pipeline.

Through its TK Documentation Programme, SBC identified in 2007 Adenosma nelsonioides, a plant traditionally used by both the Bidayuh and Iban to treat skin ailments such as rashes and itch—as well as to protect their domestic animals from flea and tick infestations—as a potential candidate for the development of a line of human and veterinary health and wellness products. Analytical studies conducted at SBC pinpointed the essential oil of Adenosma nelsonioides as containing the bulk of the active principles donning the plant with its antibacterial and antifungal properties. SBC is now developing the oil under the trademark AdenoSara® for human oral care and general hygiene products such as mouthwash and hand sanitizer, respectively, and as a natural insect repellent for the pet and poultry care industries.

The collaboration between SBC and the two Bidayuh and Iban communities is unique in that it includes building the local capacity within the two communities to not only plant and harvest Adenosma nelsonioides, but also to distill the oil and produce a product of high quality, AdenoSara®. The establishment of a sustainable value chain within the communities has helped empower the communities as a whole, and in the case of the Bidayuh, the womenfolk in particular.

“I firmly believe that through the strong dedication demonstrated by our scientists and the greater participation of our indigenous communities, Sarawak will be able to tap into the health and wellness sector through innovative solutions from nature”, said Datuk Amar Michael Manyin Jawong, Minister for Education, Science and Technological Research, Sarawak.

Sarawak Biodiversity Council’s Chairman, YB Datuk Amar Jaul Samion, added that “the benefit sharing agreement marks the first step in moving towards commercialization of local resources and will pave the way for generating additional income in the rural communities to improve their livelihood. This is in line with Sarawak Government's vision to move away from a traditional industry and explore new economic growth opportunities through innovation.”

With key support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the AdenoSara® project aims to provide a blueprint for the sustainable exploitation of a natural resource through a propagation and use plan that engages the local communities to actively participate in the establishment of a ‘jungle to consumer’ value chain that benefits the environment and the communities equally.

The AdenoSara® BSA comes on the heels of the first Malaysian BSA, also established in Sarawak by SBC in March 2019, with five indigenous communities for the production and commercialisation of LitSara®, an essential oil used in the production of an extensive line of well-scented personal care products.

SBC has been at the forefront of efforts to implement international standards established following the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Rio de Janeiro regulating access to genetic resources and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from their utilization. The AdenoSara® project was set in motion in accordance with the Sarawak Biodiversity Regulations 2016 that provided for the requirement of Prior Informed Consent and Access and Benefit Sharing which conforms to the 2010 Nagoya Protocol Agreement. This supplementary agreement to the CBD stipulates the right of indigenous communities to manage their village’s biological resources and to negotiate benefit sharing terms on the commercialization of those resources.

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