Saturday 17 April 2021
  • :
  • :

Where it’s from matters

At times certain places, locations or communities have the ability to confer certain characteristics to us depending on how long we stay in a place, location or community. Characteristics such as accents and dress sense, elements of cultures and traditions most times are linked to the location we find ourselves in.
The argument is that certain characteristics and traits are unique to a location. In the world of fresh produce and a select few other products and services, location influences and ascribes distinct characteristics and traits as well.  Some locations due to their weather patterns, soil composition and other conditions even human traits bound in culture and tradition result in products that have specific qualities.
These qualities could be different appearances, tastes, smells and textures etc., to the extent that if the product were to be grown or produced in another location, it’s characteristics would change significantly, which would mean that the product would no longer be what it is acclaimed.  The element of uniqueness that a product has due to its environment including natural or human factors is protectable to the benefit of the surrounding communities under a sui generis (of its own kind) legal system called Geographical indication.
Geographical indication confers the right to producers to exclude the use of a name to a product unless it was produced or manufactured in the specific location. The use of a specific name or mark indicates the product has qualities that are unique to the geographical location. This enables the building of a brand of the products made in those specific locations. Various examples of products that have been branded as unique to their environment are tequila, cognac, champagne, Swiss cheese and chocolate, and many more.
From the said examples, it is obvious that typically geographical indication is used for fresh produce, agricultural output, wines and spirits. However it is important to note that geographical indication is not limited to natural conditions but also human factors based on cultural and traditional practices. An example of a community that has successfully branded their human factors due to cultural practices is the Asian community having various geographical indications in their ayurvedic medication.
Most notably, Swiss products have been branded as having both natural and human factors; Swiss products like their chocolate and cheese incorporate both natural and human factors.
Swiss chocolate has its characteristic taste and it’s reputation based on some ingredients used from Switzerland and other parts of the world and then the unique processes and mechanisms the Swiss incorporate to produce their chocolate.
An interesting example is the hand watches they produce, Rolex has been branded as a reputable product due to the human factor of engineering and technique that the Swiss argue is specialized to them.
Bringing it home to our continent that is richly endowed with natural resources that are unique due to the weather patterns, soil composition and cultural practices, there are numerous options to which geographical indications apply.
One such example is that of Rooibos tea. Rooibos grows on the slope regions in the Western Cape in South Africa. This plant owes its distinct properties to the soil composition, which is said to be mainly due to the constant fires (both natural and man made), the arid conditions of the Cedarberg Mountains that sees extremely dry summers and wet winters.  Rooibos’ acclaim was not only for it’s delicious and soothing tea but also later discovered to have a few health properties. The sui generis protection of Rooibos under geographical indication saw the farmers of this plant benefiting both nationally and internationally.
The name Rooibos underwent a trademark dispute but from a geographical indication perspective, the farmers of Rooibos were able to exclude the use of the word for any product that was not grown and produced in the Western Cape. Rooibos has international acclaim due to the efforts of branding it as a product unique to the Cedarberg Mountains.
Similarly, Namibia has a range of unique products that are due to our natural and human factors. In order to brand ourselves as housing geographical indications, we need to have a better understanding of the produce we have.
An example worth looking into is the devil’s claw, oshikundu and numerous other products including our renowned beef production. Branding ourselves as a nation that produces unique and distinct products goes a long way in putting ourselves on the map.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *