R10m cash infusion for rooibos benefits research

R10m cash infusion for rooibos benefits research

Scientists who discover the health benefits of rooibos will receive a boost of close to R10 million, thanks to a partnership between the Department of Science and Innovation and the South African Rooibos Council.

The department has made available 4.8 million rand through its Sector Innovation Fund, to match the amount proposed by the Rooibos Council. The Sectoral Innovation Fund was launched in 2013 to increase the competitiveness of various sectors by promoting investment in research.

The council announced the investment in more research into the health benefits of rooibos on Wednesday at an event in Cape Town to showcase some of the recently completed studies on the indigenous plant.

The funding will allow researchers to delve into rooibos tea’s ability to protect against Alzheimer’s disease, attack oxidative damage, prevent and control inflammatory bowel syndrome, protect the heart from oxidative stress, reduce nasal allergy, and counteract diseases such as heart attacks, strokes, diabetes. and insulin resistance.

‘CO-FINANCING AGREEMENT’
Sunita Kalan, the department’s director of sector and local innovation, said the funding would be channeled to research projects identified by the Rooibos Council.

Kalan said: “Given the decline in private sector investment in R&D (research and development) in recent years, the Sector Innovation Fund has helped create an enabling environment for R&D priorities. , development and innovation) driven largely by industry in a co-financing arrangement with the government.”

“The intention is to explore new approaches to foster R&D&i partnerships with the private sector, as well as build stronger links between industry and the public science system,” he said.

The council will select research projects from submissions made by academic institutions, he said. joe swart, research director of the SA Rooibos Council.

Based on the submissions, researchers will be invited to present to the council, and their proposals will be reviewed by consulting researchers before any funding is awarded.

One of the main functions of the council is to establish a scientific evidence base for the health benefits of rooibos, Swart said.

To date, it has contributed more than R21 million to rooibos-related research, and since 2016 the council has funded 23 studies. The body of research has been published in 35 different articles and presented at 53 conferences.

Swart said that while rooibos has been studied for more than 20 years and researchers have confirmed its beneficial properties, a lack of funding has hampered progress. The additional investment will help the industry move forward with studies including human trials, an important next step in the development of therapies that contain rooibos as an active ingredient.

According to Swart, the economic opportunities that will emerge from further research have the potential to be significant.

“Learning more about rooibos and its properties will also contribute to economic diversification, generating benefits throughout the rooibos supply chain, while allowing the industry to expand into new markets,” he said.

This year, the rooibos tea industry paid R12.2 million to groups representing the country’s indigenous people, as part of a profit-sharing deal to recognize the plant’s original growers, News24 previously reported. The funds were placed in a trust controlled by the Khoi and San people and were intended to improve the lives of those communities.

Grown only in Cederberg in the Western Cape, rooibos has become increasingly sought after in export markets, especially in Europe. It was granted protected designation of origin (PDO) status in 2021.

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