Many thanks to Adam James at freelancejournalists.org, for alerting us to this latest development in the fortunes of the Hadzabe tribe of Tanzania, whom it would appear, despite having the odds stacked against them, appear to have pulled off a spectacular victory in their attempt to retain domain over their traditional hunting grounds, which looked set to be taken over by helicopter-borne Saudi royals, who considered themselves to be in need of new recreational hunting grounds. Here’s some detail from his article…
One of Africa’s last hunter-gatherer tribes has won a “great victory” after an Arab royal family dropped plans to use the people’s ancestral land for commercial hunting.
A company acting on behalf of Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed of the United Arab Emirates has pulled out of a deal made two years ago with the Tanzania government to hunt wildlife in 2,267 square kms of remote bush in the Yaeda Chini region of Tanzania, east Africa.
Campaigners feared if a hunting concession was granted to the company then the 400-estimated Hadzabe hunter-gatherers of Yaeda Chini would have been criminalised as poachers and driven off land their ancestors have lived on for 10,000 years.
The Hadzabe, who live in small groups and are believed to number less than 1,000 in total in Tanzania, are the closest cultural relatives to the San bushmen of the Kalahari in Botswana.
I must admit that after months of seeming silence, I was somewhat pessimistic regarding the final outcome of this battle, as it appeared that the deal had been done, and that in due course the surrounding landscape would have been echoing to the sound of Saudi helicopter-gunships massacring the big game on the ground below. And although there was a considerable amount of opposition expressed on the Web and elsewhere, the overall impression I had was that as there didn’t appear to be a concerted effort to defend the Hadzabe, their days as hunter-gatherers were strictly numbered. But as we can see, the company behind the recreational hunting initiative, UAE Safaris Ltd., have themselves decided to head for the hills, though not without a few parting shots in the direction of the world’s media…
A UAE Safaris statement read: “To suggest or imply that the company operations included restricting or preventing Hadzabe tribesmen from continuing their traditional hunting practices is incorrect – traditional hunting practices are subject only to Tanzanian law.”
“However, a commercially motivated misrepresentation of the company’s intentions and activities has been continuously perpetuated by certain interest groups. This has regretfully caused us to review the long term sustainability of our planned program in the entire region resulting in our reluctant withdrawal.”
I for one don’t recall any such assurances being given by this commercial venture, and even if they had tried to reassure us, it was clear that the Tanzanian government itself had little regard for the perpetuity of a hunter-gatherer lifestyle for the Hadzabe, and would certainly have prohibited the tribe from pursuing their traditional lives – and there will be little sympathy from those opposed to the original project for the Safari company. One of the more surprising aspects of the deal was the paltry amount of cash involved for leasing the land from the Tanzanian goverment, at least if these figures are anything to go by…
Other commercial hunting firms operating in Tanzania pay £25,000 per year, plus “trophy fees” of, for example, £6,000 per lion and £7,500 per elephant.
In their defence, the safari company had allegedly promised to bring material benefits to the Hadzabe…
Before being granted its concession, UAE Safaris was due to assist in the economic development of the Yaeda Chini valley, which borders Lake Eyasi.
It was to build a secondary school, health clinic and roads to link the Hadzabe with Mbulu, the nearest town. The hunting firm was also to pay 50% of the running costs of the school for as long as it was granted a hunting concession in Yaeda Chini.
The company, which had only got as far as building a base camp in Yaeda Chini, also promised a number of conservation initiatives, including providing 4×4 vehicles for anti-poaching patrols and water boreholes to attract more wildlife to Yaeda Chini, an animal migratory route where wildlife is underthreat from poaching.
All of which sounds very laudable, although as we see…
But campaigners say neither the government nor UAE Safaris had given any guarantee that a sustainable solution could be brokered to ensure the Hadzabe could continue to hunt without being arrested for poaching. In 2005, after Hadzabe had been arrested on poaching charges elsewhere in Tanzania, the effected private hunting company did broker such an agreement.
Despite this ostensibly good news, there are nevertheless still concerns for the long-term welfare of the tribe…
Edward Porokwa, co-ordinator of the Pingo Forum, which represents indigenous tribes in Tanzania, said Hadzabe have neither legal ownership to their land nor do they have any legal right to self-subsistence hunting.
“It is as if the Hadzabe do not exist,” said Mr Porokwa. “Unless you have a hunting concession, hunting is illegal. Law prohibits hunting. Therefore, the livelihoods of the Hadzabe is not recognised according to the law.”
Many would argue that it should be quite within the financial means of the Tanzanian government to fund the Mbulu District Council in order that they may bring practical aid to the Hadzabe, in the guise of health and education, whilst still allowing them to forage at a sustainable level in their own back yard; moreover, it should also be possible for the government to provide financial assistance to protect wild-life in the area.
So although this is for now a significant victory for the Hadzabe and those who have campaigned on their behalf, it remains to be seen how this tribe will fare in the longer term.