African Hoodia - Great for Everyone except Africans?
The harsh South African sun bakes the near-barren landscape. Little disturbs the scrub grasses and low bushes that cling tenaciously to survival. The only movement is that of a small group of leanly-muscled runners, slowed by their burdens of roots and meat. Their burdens and the oppressive heat bring on the first pangs of hunger. They stop at a low, thick-stemmed bush, and each eats a bite of the juicy leaves. They resume their long trek, their hunger forgotten. Is this an excerpt from the latest nature show? No, but it could be a commercial for African hoodia, the latest rage in weight loss supplements.
African hoodia is native to the Kalahari Desert region of Southern Africa. It has been used by centuries to prevent hunger on long trips by The San, more often known as the San Bushmen or simply Bushmen. Recent events surrounding the African hoodia craze have caused The San to protest
News coverage in the past year or so has highlighted African hoodia as a potent weight loss supplement. Pharmaceutical companies are desperately trying to reproduce the active ingredient in African hoodia in the lab, with little success. This leaves the hoodia plants growing natively in the desert as the sole source of African hoodia. The San people have lived on these same lands for thousands of years. This shortage has created a kind of "black market" for real African hoodia plants.
The South African Council for Scientific and Industrial Research or CSIR first patented the appetite suppressant qualities of African hoodia. This provided the first step in protecting the wildly popular plant. Most of the countries in which African hoodia grows, as well as many others around the world, have imposed strict regulations on the import and export of African hoodia. However, some of the countries that do not participate in these regulations are causing The San much grief.
The San are urging the governments of their own and other nations to take action against the illegal sale of African hoodia. The San have a deal in place to share in the profits of the sale of African hoodia, although these indigenous people often have little else. The much-sought African hoodia plant grows on their ancestral lands, and it is only right that they share in the profits.
The Kalahari residents called The San first discovered African hoodia. They were the first to recognize its appetite suppressing properties. They have used African hoodia for thousands of years. The only place that African hoodia grows natively is on The San's ancestral lands. Currently the only way to reproduce more African hoodia ingredients is to create hoodia farms on land belonging to The San. Furthermore, the efforts to market African hoodia focus squarely on the romanticized lifestyle of these hardworking desert dwellers.
Isn't it only fair that the majority of the profits from the sale of African hoodia go to the owners and discoverers? Before consumers plunge headlong into an African hoodia buying frenzy, they should check to ensure they are buying only properly licensed and legal African hoodia products. If it were discovered in your backyard, wouldn't you insist on a large share of the profits? Of course you would.