Is there a sustainable TK commons in operation in Ghana, and if not, what are the prospects for having such a commons?
Traditional knowledge (TK) encompasses a mix of ancient current knowledge, with age-old therapies and cultural heritage continually refined in order to cater for present societal needs. TK is typically viewed as belonging to communities and not to particular individuals. The knowledge has been handed down from generation to generation and through the sharing of the knowledge, a “commons” has been created.
However, oftentimes, foreign entities acquire TK and commercialise it, without appropriate compensation to the community/ies from which the knowledge is obtained. This has prompted dissatisfaction from indigenous and local communities (ILCs) who are the “guardians” of TK. The international Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) of 1992 took note of this injustice and recognised the value of protecting TK as part of preserving, among others, biodiversity, ecosystems and species. The CBD further emphasised the need for equitable access and benefit-sharing (ABS) agreements for the use of TK. Following on from the objectives of the CBD, nine of the 18 Member States of the African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO), including Ghana, in 2010 agreed to the Swakopmund Protocol on the Protection of Traditional Knowledge and Expressions of Folklore. The Swakopmund Protocol highlights the importance of ABS.This study is investigating existing TK protection/sharing systems in place in Ghana, and the degree to which a TK commons approach is present and/or feasible.