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This article is written by Saransh Shrivastava, pursuing a Diploma in Intellectual Property, Media and Entertainment Laws from LawSikho.


Sumbawa is an island in West Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia which is famous for its honey all over the world. Honey hunting has been the tradition for the community since ages. Honey hunters of Sumbawa have their own traditional ways of collecting and harvesting honey which is unique and efficient. The traditional method is so good that it lets the bees make the same nest again in the same nest after the honey has been collected, in just 15 days. Therefore, in order to support agriculture and rural development, providing Geographical Indication to Sumbawa honey may prove to be an alternative tool in the national development for the community who collects honey in their own traditional way.

In Indonesia, the government has taken over the control of harvesting bamboo, beauty leaf, silk, honey etc. the only focus is the development of the business and to prevent to businessmen from exploiting the local people of Sumbawa.GI functions like a tool for not only protecting the traditional knowledge but also creates an aura of exotics which comes from the history and culture which are associated with the process of origination of products. GI also indicates the origin of the product and the unique quality by virtue of its soil composition, climate, biodiversity etc which makes the product unique. The quality can also be determined in relation to the product’s nutritional properties, flavour and appearance. Moreover, geographical character for e.g. in Sumbawa there are native giant honey bees ‘Apis dorsata’ which also plays a key role in making of the honey. Apart from the bees, the traditional knowledge, traditional local culture and philosophy also plays a crucial role in the distinctiveness of the product. 

Geographical Indication is a form of Intellectual property which identifies products which only originate in a certain region or country and possess qualities and reputation due to that place of origin. Developed countries like Germany which has the most GI i.e. 9,499 followed by China 7,566, EU-4914 etc. The top 5 countries having the most GI cover 67% of the GI of the world. On the other hand, Indonesia has only 65 GI as of now 34 of which was registered in 2018 when the director general of the Ministry of Justice announced that each province of Indonesia should have at least 1 GI before 2019.

Ways in which GI will help Sumbawa honey:

  1. The GI system in Indonesia protects not only generic products such as tea, rice, potato but also protects animal husbandry such as Sumbawa honey and milk.
  2. This system also protects the traditional knowledge and the unique way of harvesting and collecting honey by the people of Sumbawa. Through this, the traditional culture expression will also be protected.
  3. Traditional knowledge subsisted in all GI products in Indonesia until the end 2017, even though the intention of obtaining GI registrations for the products were neither to preserve nor exploit the economic benefits of traditional knowledge, per se. This requirement of traditional knowledge derivation for a protected genetic resource-based product seeks to ensure there exists a strong link between the product and its designated area of production especially by denoting natural factors. 
  4. The standard of quality necessary for products to be worthy of GI protection continued to be premium. So to increase quality traditional farmers were advised to get involved in capacity binding programs. In these programs, instead of being advised to preserve their traditional knowledge related to farming, the farmers were encouraged to modify traditional techniques and adopt more modern practices.
  5. Some GI products have associations with traditional cultural expressions, especially regarding how products are served. In other words, the traditional cultural expressions for these products were characterized more so by the final appearance of a product than by traditional knowledge used in processing or blending the raw products. Thus, the traditional cultural expressions were not the main factors of protection but of commercialization.

Forestry and Health benefits

The total forest area on Sumbawa is roughly 49 percent of the island West Nusa Tenggara ie. 516,242ha and 47 percent of which is regulated by the government under the Ministry of Forestry Statistics since 2013. As it is very much expensive for the gov. to manage and protect the entire area, therefore, the district gov. comes up with a plan of community-based forest management programs to enable the local people to manage their own forest and cultivate and harvest their own crops. This will reduce illegal logging, unmitigated shifting cultivation etc.

Honey harvested from forests through traditional ways are considered more healthier and can also be used as antioxidants. The level of pollution in our environment has doubled in the last 5 years and one of the deadliest pollutants is lead (pb). It gets accumulated in our body and once causes Lead poisoning. There’s research on Sumbawa Forest honey towards lead poisoning to kidney damage through animal models.

In this model, they used 20 rats and divided them into 5 groups. Each group was fed 10mg/per rat of lead acetate per day in their food for 14 days. They also fed Sumbawa honey to group one with 25 mg/kg dose, group two with 50mg/kg dose, group 3 with 75mg/kg dose and group 5 with no doses at all. After 14 days, it was noticed that the BUN (blood urea nitrogen) was measured through spectrophotometry methods, and kidney histopathological features were stained using HE which was then observed using a microscope. Result showed that the batch which was fed 75 mg/kg dose had repaired the kidney damage the most. This experiment clearly shows that the Sumbawa Forest honey reduces blood urea nitrogen level which cures kidney damage.

The above result makes it very clear as to why the Sumbawa region claims to have a specific type of honey and the main objective of G.I. is to give the product an added value. Which include the methods and procedures and a unique taste and colour that distinguishes it from any other honey. The above specification needs to be filled in the books of requirement while filling GI application. Just like trademark GI is also identified by a logo, but it can be used by anyone who’s making the product. Using the logo underscores the “value” contributed to a product from that region. Therefore, GI is a collective sign and anyone can use it by adhering to the books of requirement.

Result and Discussion

GI generally works as a product differentiation but there are many indirect advantages such as advertisement, promotion of the country which could improve the rural development in case of Sumbawa. Advertisement includes various marketing strategies in both national and international markets which can add value to the livelihood of the producers. These rural honey hunters from forest areas hunt honey in groups of 3 to 6. The tradition allows adult boys of not less than 25 years old, to hunt with other professional hunters having 20 years of experience in honey hunting. Roughly 10% of men older than 25 in the Sumbawa village get involved in honey hunting. Usually, it takes 3 years to master all the techniques required for honey hunting.

The traditional hunting process is too dangerous as compared to the process used by the developed countries but still the rural people of Sumbawa enjoy the journey in the forest with other hunters sharing their experiences of danger and stories which would motivate them to perform the task. But recently people of the island have noticed that the traditional bonding opportunities are slowly diminishing not just because of the new technologies that have taken place but also sometimes the change in nature which affects the earning of the hunters as well. As the harvesting period starts from April to early November and after that there is little or no collection for the till next April. Increase in division of labour in other agricultural activity can also be a one of the reasons as the gov. is influencing other villages to grow cash crops like hybrid corn, soya etc. therefore in order to grow such cash crops there must be enough land for agriculture.

Thus, cutting of trees is one of the major issues for honey hunters as less trees means less nests and ultimately less honey. Sumbawa witnesses’ rainy season during the month of January and it lasts till March. One of the geographical characters in Sumbawa is the native giant honey bee “Apis dorsata” which also plays a key role in making of the honey but bees generally are reluctant to the rainy season and prefer to migrate during such periods to a dry place so they could again make new nests. Thus, the business gets slowed during the rainy season. 

Therefore, GI functions like a tool for not only protecting the traditional knowledge but also creates an aura of exotics which comes from the history and culture which are associated with the process of origination of products.GI provides support to the agricultural industry and motivate the honey hunters to be get involved in the process by providing them with premium prices. Before 2007, the cost of honey (250g) was about 15000 Indonesian Rupiah after 2007 when the gov. introduced the SHN scheme to the hunters the price increased to 65000 to 75000 Rp but only after the introduction of GI tag in December 2011 the price then increased by more than 150% i.e. around 198000 Rp. Thus, ensuring the permanence of indigenous cultivating habitats getting passed from one generation to other. 



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