Material Transfer Agreements

What is a Material Transfer Agreement (MTA)?

A MTA is a contract between the provider and receiver of genetic resources when the genetic resources are to be exported usually for further research purposes. It sets conditions and parameters for their use and makes provision for further negotiations for benefits along the development process to the provider of the genetic resource or associated traditional knowledge. A MTA is only used when genetic resources are to be exported for further research and development.

Types of MTAs

While there are three types of MTAs applicable in Namibia, two forms of MTAs are commonly used when accessing indigenous plant resources for further research and/or development viz.:

  1. SCIENTIFIC / ACADEMIC RESEARCH – agreement for the supply of biological material from the Republic of Namibia for scientific research purposes.
    » Download the MTA form for scientific / academic research
  2. COMMERCIAL RESEARCH- agreement for the supply of biological material from the Republic of Namibia for commercial research purposes.
    » Download the MTA form for commercial research

Both MTAs operate on a bilateral level with agreement on conditions being reach between the provider and receiver of the genetic resource(s) on terms and conditions of use and benefit-sharing. The provider in this case can be the State or the State on behalf of a local institution, community or individual.

The third form of MTA relates to the International Treaty for Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture’s multilateral system for access and use of crop genetic resources, and is referred to as the standard MTA (sMTA). It is used when Treaty parties access Namibia’s Annex 1 crop germplasm in the multilateral system and is usually linked to plant breeding activities. The sMTA involves a Third Party (the FAO) and benefits from any research developments contribute to a benefit sharing fund that is shared between all parties to the Treaty. The terms and conditions of access, use and benefits are predetermined through the Treaty parties and are standard by nature.

When do you need a Material Transfer Agreement?

A MTA is required when components of indigenous plants or other genetic resources are exported for further research for scientific/academic or commercial purposes. It is usually used in conjunction with a Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) research/collecting permit when material needs to be transferred /exported.  It is required to be signed with the relevant authority before an export permit for the material is issued by the MET.

Currently, the authority managing the MTA system for plant genetic resources is the National Botanical Research Institute (NBRI). It is anticipated that in future once the Access to Genetic Resources and Associated Traditional Knowledge Bill is operational that this function will be transferred to the Unit provided for in the Bill, which will have a MTA to cover the export of all genetic resources, not just those of indigenous plants.

A sMTA is required by those accessing the crop species in Annex 1 of the ITPGRFA. This continues to be managed by the NBRI.

Where can you apply for a MTA?

A MTA for the export of plant genetic material and microbes can be signed with the NBRI (see contact address below ). A MTA will only be signed if the applicant can produce a valid research/collecting permit, can define the purpose for export i.e. type of research to be conducted and nature/form of the genetic material to be exported, and is able to identify the laboratories or research institutions that will receive the genetic material. There is no cost involved.


National Botanical Research Institute
Economic Botany Section
Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry,

Contact Person: Steve Carr
Tel: +264 61 2022012