Documentation:Open Case Studies/FRST522/The Hadzabe Indigenous People of Tanzania: Successes To Date and Future Directions

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On June 5, 2019, the Hadza, singular, or Hadzabe, plural[1], of the Yaeda Valley of Tanzania, a 20,000-year-old hunter-gatherer indigenous tribe won the Equator Prize announced by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and partners[2]. Just like many other Indigenous communities in the world who had been ruled by a colonial state power, the Hadzabe community once had also faced the problem of losing land ownership and threatened with loss of their human rights[1][3]. Through a historic land tenure campaign, the Hadzabe has not only legally secured 20,790[4] hectares of their traditional territory in the Yaeda Valley but also has their community forests conserved through launching a REDD+ scheme[2]. The implementation of participatory land-use planning has also empowered the Hadzabe community in local decision-making processes. Community monitoring and inclusive governance are key to the success of the Hadzabe community[2]. Future directions have been suggested in response to the current Hadza concerns.

Hadza Hunters Hamesi Hasani and his nephew Mkapa Kaunda stand on a rocky outcropping near their camp overlooking the Central Rift Valley in Tanzania

Description of the Case Study


The Hadzabe tribe inhabits approximately a 1500 square kilometres area in the northern part of the United Republic of Tanzania, which is commonly referred to the "Lake Eyasi Basin"[1]. The traditional territory of the Hadzabe covers three modern administrative regions of Tanzania: Arusha, Shinyanga and Singida regions[1]. Nowadays, only the Yaeda Valley and Kideru Ridge above the valley in Arusha Region, Mbulu district under Hadzabe occupation is legally recognized and titled[1]

The Hadzabe

The Hadzabe is not "early modern humans", but a "contemporary modern-day community"[5]. The ancestors of the Hadzabe have been living in this area for thousands, and likely, tens of thousands of years[5]. As in the aspects of language, customs, economy, political and social structures, as well as archaeological evidence, the Hadzabe have little in common with the rest of the world, even with their geographic neighbours[5].

In modern days, some Hadzabe people choose to diversify their source of income through small scale gardening and agriculture, while the majority of Hadzabe still live primarily from hunting buffalo, zebra, and giraffe and gathering berries, different tubers, and fruits from natural, uncultivated sources[1].

The Hadzabe is self-identified as an indigenous people[3] which has been supported by the Article 1.2 of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention No. 169[6] where states "Self-identification as indigenous or tribal shall be regarded as a fundamental criterion for determining the groups to which the provisions of this Convention apply." Article 3 of the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) further states "Indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development". As one of the few surviving nations of the hunter-gatherer in Africa [ the others including the San of southern Africa and the Batwa of central Africa], the Hadzabe is a perfect source for scientists to study human subsistence and social behaviours[5].

Local Context

The extent of Hadzabe territory, 1950 and today

There is a total population of over 44 million in Tanzania, while the population of the Hadzabe is estimated between 1,500 to 3,000 people depending on different data sources [3]. Plus, the growth rate of the Hadzabe is only about half of the national average. As a result, the Hadzabe does not need to confront the problem of land shortage, but this has further increased the risk of their traditional land being indiscriminately grabbed by the major Tanzania population [3].

Most of the Hadzabe did not settle in the villages where the Tanzanian government built for them in the past, few do today. Only 5% of the Hadzabe food comes from cultivated agriculture, most still come from the bush[5]. Consequently, about 90% traditional territory of the Hadzabe is lost due to the immigration of outsiders moving into the facilities built for the Hadzabe[1].

Currently, there are three distinct land-use systems in the traditional Hadzabe lands: 1) hunting and gathering by the Hadzabe, 2) pastoralism, and 3) agriculture. Increasing and unsustainable land-use has imposed environmental threats to the Hadzabe due to overgrazing, deforestation, and tourism[1].

Tenure Arrangements

Before 2011: Village Land Act (VLA) 1999

Before 2011, a number of the national initiatives have threatened the land rights of Hadzabe, such as

  • The Investment Act of 1997, which allows foreign investors to own land for economic gains[3];
  • the Land Amendment Act of 2004, which allows the sale of "bare" lands and promotes the use of land to be collateral[3];
  • and the revised Draft of the Wildlife Conservation Act No. 9 of 2008, which imposes limits in terms of land access and land use to dependent communities[3].

The most noteworthy land legislation is the VLA 1999 of Tanzania, which has spelled out legal procedures on land holding, tenure, and administrative mechanisms[1]. The holders of the “right of occupancy” are the villagers, who can either be an ordinary resident in a village or a specific person who has been recognized by the Village Council[3]. A Village Council is a representative body elected by all members of the village including the numerically minor group Hadzabe, who would have no chance of winning the electoral majority[3].

The title deed that the Hadzabe holds to land does not recognize their customary title, but rather is a lease permit for 99 years -- the same as any group who is applying for the access to “unused lands” [1]. The radical title remains with the government of Tanzania, meaning President as the trustee to the nation[1]. Without consulting with a concerned village, the nation has the right to transform a village land into a general public land[3].

Section 14 of the VLA does grant entry and residing rights to the original residents to a conservation area such as the Hadzabe[3]. However, how VLA works in practice is another matter. Inadequacies of the VLA system have been criticized:

  • The VLA does not comprehend the cultural ties of people to a land and customarily collective ownership to manage the land[3];
  • There will be an increased risk of land individualization because a villager has the right to apply for an individual title and sell the land to an outsider[3].
  • The VLA is not conducive to economic growth or improved food security[3];
  • By the fact that land is managed by the Village Council, Indigenous People's customary title is not recognized[3];
  • The VLA does not consider the needs of hunter-gather and nomadic people but is designed for sedentarized agricultural communities[1];
  • Some Village Council is inadequate in managing lands or representing village interests, e.g. corruption[1].

After 2011: Certificate of Customary Right of Occupancy, or CCRO

Small communities without legal land titles have lived outside the mainstream society and economy, which makes it more difficult for them to secure their traditional territories[7]. In response, the local NGO Ujamaa Community Resource Team (UCRT) had worked with the Hadzabe and Ministry of Lands to pilot a more effective approach: giving legal land tenures to communities instead of individuals — through a Certificate of Customary Right of Occupancy, or CCRO[7].

In 2011, the Hadzabe community acquired a historic win in securing 20,790 hectares of their traditional territory through the title of CCRO[7]. It is the first time a communal title was granted to a minority group in Tanzania[7], which must be renewed every 33 years. With the collective nature of this certificate, land individualization (transaction/ subdivision) can no longer take place without the consent of the entire community. The land is completely owned by the Hadzabe and designated solely for Hadza traditional uses[4].

The CCRO land title is registered under the Tanzanian Land Act as Village Land, so not to be mistaken for General Land or Reserve Land which the public has access to[4]. The national legislation will prevent other intruders into the Hadza land[4]. Although game hunting is prohibited throughout the country, the Tanzanian government allows the Hadzabe to hunt game to sustain their hunting and gathering culture[4].

In 2016, the Tanzania Minister of Lands issued 12 communal land titles to Hadza and their neighbouring Datago pastoralists. Although it is only 10% of the Hadza traditional territory, hope starts[7].


Results from the gatherings have to be summarized in a protocol and approved by the attending villagers through a signature or thumb print (Fassbender, 2016)

With the help of the local NGO Ujamaa Community Resource Team (UCRT), the Village Council and the Hadzabe have set up the Yaeda Land Use Plan and define boundaries with their neighbours. The land-use plan is a legal framework that dictates use and management rights, sets penalties for breaking the rules, and lays out rules to enforce bylaws[7]. The decision-making process is in the form of a Village Gathering. The gathering is open to anyone in the village who has the interest to attend such a meeting. Any results from the gathering discussion will be summarized in a protocol and approved by villagers in attendance through a printed thumb or signature[4]. The district government holds a higher jurisdiction to a Land Use Plan, for example, solving land-use conflicts between adjacent communities[4].


As discussed above, the village government can only sanction forbidden activities within their legal boundary, not to neighbouring intruders. For example, some outsiders will repeatedly enter their conservation area or move the boundary markings. Although issues have been reported to the district government, little or no actions have been received back[4].

Reporting System

Village residents can report to the village government if the Yaeda Land Use Plan is violated. The village government will then resolve the conflict and issue fines if necessary. Sentences are typically compensations to the affected party paid by the violating party. For example, in the form of cattle transferred from the violator to a communal fund or to victim. Additional guards are put on patrol if further land-use conflicts arise.

Affected Stakeholders

The Hadzabe

Besides the land and human rights issues, an uncontrolled growing level of outside immigrants and tourists has fuelled local social problems associated with alcoholism and cheap and unsafe sex. The greatest threat to this small population is the risk of HIV as the Hadzabe come to experience increasing contacts with outside immigrants. Unless "conscious and tireless campaigns" about the AIDs pandemic are made to educate and alert the Hadzabe, their existence in the future is considerably threatened[5].

Immigrants from neighbouring communities

Since the 1970s, many non-hunter-gathers have moved into Hadzabe's traditional territory, such as Barabaig pastoralists, Iraqw, and other agriculturists[5]. New land-uses include "cash crop (onion) farming, charcoal making, building supplies (poles, sand, and gravel), livestock keeping, hunting and foraging, commercial hunting, gemstone mining, salt mining, fishing, honey harvesting and tourism"[5]. The coming of the immigrants has greatly threatened the Hadzabe lifestyle and the environment.

Two reasons have contributed to this land conflict. First, as a semi-nomadic community, the Hadzabe do not clear large area for agriculture lands, establish permanent structures, or graze large herds of cattle. Therefore, the fact they leave little visible signs of their occupation or use of the land is one of the reasons why neighbouring communities come to the “open” or unused lands[5]. In addition, Tanzania's single-minded policy on agriculture development has also stimulated the population to find lands to grow crops[5].

Although the immigrants have threatened the Hadzabe in certain ways, the fact that they have also resided on the land for over 40 years has made them an affected stakeholder for any policy or legislation imposed on this land.

Interested Stakeholders

Tanzanian Government

The United Republic of Tanzania was formed as a sovereign country in 1964 through unifying theretofore separate states of Tanganyika and Zanzibar[8]. "National building" then was seen as the overall task for this newly formed independent country. The self-determination of indigenous peoples was considered as a source of instability to national unity, where "intensified chauvinism" and "discrimination" happened against ethnic groups including the Hadzabe [3].

From the mid-1960s to the early 1990s, in order to assimilate the Hadzabe hunter-gatherers into the national mainstream, the Tanzanian government tried various programs to "develop"[1] the Hadzabe, such as “compulsory schooling” of the Hadza children[3], converting the Hadzabe to "sedentary peasants" or agriculturalists[5], and the permanent settlement scheme[5]. The settlement would deliver food, seeds, farming supplies, and health services with three main objectives in mind[1]:

  • persuade the Hadzabe to turn away from their traditional hunting and gathering economy;
  • persuade the Hadzabe to settle down and participate in Tanzanian institutions;
  • and persuade the Hadzabe to produce agriculture products to follow the national strategy.

Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance (CHRAGG)

The CHRAGG is an independent government department in Tanzania, which acts as a substitute to the courts of law in protection and promotion of human rights[9]. "The CHRAGG covers a wide range of functions with the core functions include "receiving and investigating complaints, conducting research, monitoring and inquiring into matters involving the violations of human rights and contravention of the principles of administrative justice, institute proceedings in court"[10].

However, in the past, the institution completely failed the Hadzabe by trying to convince them to let their land be "developed" by outside investors[9]. The actions have been condemned by local human rights bodies and widely covered by the local media.

Ujamaa Community Resource Team (UCRT)

The UCRT is an intermediary NGO in Tanzania aiming at empowering marginalized communities, securing their land rights, and helping these groups by representing their voices on their behalf[11]. In the Hadza case, the UCRT can take huge credit for the success of gaining a communal land title by multiplying marginalized Hadza voices to be heard by the government. Besides that, the UCRT has developed the Yaeda Land Use Plan, where community boundaries are clearly defined under the CCRO. As mentioned above, the land-use plan provides a legal framework for the village government to manage resources and to enforce penalties. If necessary, the UCRT can step into mediating land-use conflicts[12].

Carbon Tanzania

Founded in 2010, Carbon Tanzania is a pioneering social enterprise and a private developer of REDD+ projects in Tanzania[12][13]. They believe through empowering local livelihoods, the global ecosystem can profit simultaneously[12].

Located in the Yaeda Valley, the conservation area is an important wildlife corridor for elephants, lions, and other endangered species[12]. The consensus was reached when Carbon Tanzania approaches the Hadzabe community where the Carbon Tanzania's conservation goals matched with the Hadzabe interests. " “We [Hadzabe and Carbon Tanzania] are equally interested in protecting the trees” (March 31st, 2016, translated from Swahili), said Mr. Naftal, a former chief of Hadzabe community[12].

Carbon Tanzania's conservation model can be described in four steps[12]. First, they measure carbon within a designated area. Second, they sell the carbon credits to international carbon markets. Third, they put money back into the community to prevent deforestation, secure land ownership, support marginalized communities. And last, their mission has been achieved by preventing habitat loss, empowering local community, and mitigate global climate change.

By working in conjunction with traditional Hadza leaders, elected village governments and a team of community members, Carbon Tanzania has established a results-based Payments for Ecosystem Services system validated under the Plan Vivo Standards[14].

Plan Vivo

Plan Vivo is a voluntary certification standard for community-based land use and forestry projects in developing countries, such as REDD+. The Plan Vivo Standard certifies projects that enable local communities and small-holders to sustainably manage their land, enhance ecosystem services and biodiversity protection[15].


My intention to write about the community is inspired by the UNDP's announcement of the 2019 Equator Prize winner. As one of the winners, the Hadzabe community has gained legal title on 20,790 hectares of their traditional territory, launched a carbon offset scheme to protect wildlife and forests, and achieved inclusive governance and community monitoring. However, as I go dig deeper into the story, I realize that concerns still exist among the Hadzabe in the current context[15].

  • Decreased water and food availability: availability of spring water is decreasing with increased livestock herding, irrigation for onion field, and the installment of domestic water supply infrastructure.
  • Lack of information on carbon trading activities: Although Carbon Tanzania agrees to present an annual report on carbon selling activities to the community, this has not happened so far and is not likely to be done in the future.
  • Seeking education on carbon sequestration: Traditional guards and some other villagers want to receive skills and education on the topic of carbon sequestration through the cooperation with Carbon Tanzania.
  • Doubt on the role of Carbon Tanzania: Some people question the role of Carbon Tanzania and their efficiency in the carbon trading business. They also query the possibility of a better result from the carbon selling activities.
  • Payment of traditional guards undertaken by the community: Although the benefit from having traditional guards is equally enjoyed by Carbon Tanzania and the Hadzabe, the payment of traditional guards is solely paid from community funds.
  • Lack of professional training for traditional guard: Patrolling in the conservation area is dangerous for traditional guards due to illegal poaching activities.
  • Missing support from district government: 5% of community fund is paid to district government but no direct support is seen in solving issues.
  • Inadequate transportation between villages: Improvement of roads is requested as travelling may be difficult in some areas, especially during raining season.

Although concerns have been raised within the community, I still consider the story as a huge success for the Hadzabe not only because they have acquired legal land title and conservation. In addition, the Hadzabe community does not recognize the concept of "private property", I think the entitlement of communal ownership is a better accommodation to their wills and values.

Assessment on the Relative Power of Stakeholders

Among the six stakeholders in the Yaeda Valley (1) Hadzabe, 2) immigrants from neighbouring communities, 3) Tanzanian government 4) CHRAGG, 5) UCRT, 6) Carbon Tanzania, and 7) Plan Vivo), the relative power of each stakeholder has changed after the Hadzabe gains their legal land title in 2011.

Before 2011, my ranking on their relative power is Tanzanian government > CHRAGG > immigrants from neighbouring communities > Hadzabe. The Tanzanian government enacted the Village Land Act 1999 which had threatened the land rights of Hadzabe. They also tried to assimilate the Hadzabe hunter-gatherers into the national mainstream. Their singled-minded policy on agriculture development also exacerbated the land loss of Hadzabe. The keynote set by the Tanzania government had "inspired" the CHRAGG to follow behind, which had further infringed the land right and human rights of the Hadzabe. Immigrants from outside could then take advantage and intrude in the Hadzabe territory.

After 2011, my ranking on their relative power is Tanzanian government > UCRT = Carbon Tanzania = Plan Vivo > Hadzabe > immigrants from neighbouring communities. The Tanzanian government ranks in the first place because they have the ultimate political power (sovereignty) over Tanzania. UCRT, Carbon Tanzania, and Plan Vivo are all significant contributors to the success of the community by multiplying Hadza voices and elevating the issue to national or international levels. Although the Hadzabe holds the legal land title under CCRO, the fact that they are still a minority with a tiny population can still make them vulnerable and marginalized without help from other organizations like UCRT or Carbon Tanzania. Immigrants from neighbouring communities now seem like the ones with the least legal and practical power comparing to others.


I suggest a representative body should be formed from the Hadzabe group. Although intermediary organizations like UCRT have contributed substantially in helping the Hadzabe, they are subject to changes and may leave at any time considering the Hadzabe is just one of the communities they are working with. A representative body elected from the Hadzabe group is local and long-lasting. Locals understand their situation well and can represent the local's voices. In this way, the Hadzabe is more resilience to future scenarios.

Campaigns about the AIDs pandemic should be held by the Tanzanian government to Indigenous communities especially the ones with little population.

In response to some of the concerns raised by the Hadzabe people, I suggest the administration and business processes of Carbon Tanzania should also be audited by Plan Vivo in addition to environmental assessment. Carbon Tanzania should cover half of the payment of traditional guards as they also enjoy the benefit.

Three recommendations regarding the national wise land-use plan have been suggested by the UCRT director, Mr. Makko Sinandei[16]. He pleads with the government to consider increasing its lands budget to meet a growing demand for village land-use plans countrywide. He also suggested a participatory procedure for dividing villages with land-use plans. And he accuses the government of haphazardly separating villages with land-use plans which may chagrin donors.

References Cited

  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 Madsen, A (2000). The Hadzabe of Tanzania: Land and human rights for a hunter-gatherer community. Copenhagen, Denmark: International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 United Nations Development Programme (2019). "Equator Prize 2019 Winners Announced for Local Innovative Climate Solutions".
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 3.13 3.14 3.15 3.16 Barume, A. K. (2014). Land Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Africa. Copenhagen, Denmark: International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 Fassbender, S. (2016). "Forest Conservation and the Hadzabe. An Integrated Approach in Protecting Biodiversity and Cultural Diversity. Case study: Carbon Tanzania" (PDF). (Master’s thesis).
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 5.11 Mabulla, A. Z. P. (2007). "Hunting and Foraging in the Eyasi Basin, Northern Tanzania: Past, Present and Future". The African Archaeological Review. 24: 15–33.
  6. International Labour Organization. "C169 - Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989 (No. 169)".
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 Redfern, K. (June 2018). "Securing Hadza land titles, securing futures in Tanzania". Cultural Survival.
  8. Encyclopaedia Britannica (October 4, 2019). "Tanzania".
  9. 9.0 9.1 Peter, C.M. (2007). "Human Rights of Indigenous Minorities in Tanzania and the Courts of Law". International Journal on Minority and Group Rights. 14: 455–487.
  10. International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (2019). "Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance".
  11. Ujamaa Community Resource Team (2017). "Empowerment Justice Stewardship".
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 12.5 Fassbender, S. (2016). "Forest Conservation and the Hadzabe. An integrated approach in protecting biodiversity and cultural diversity. Case study: Carbon Tanzania" (PDF). (Master’s thesis).
  13. Code REDD (October 2017). "Code REDD Welcomes New Member Carbon Tanzania".
  14. Plan Vivo (2019). "REDD+ in Yaeda Valley – Tanzania".
  15. 15.0 15.1 Fassbender, S. (2016). "Forest Conservation and the Hadzabe. An integrated approach in protecting biodiversity and cultural diversity. Case study: Carbon Tanzania" (PDF). (Master’s thesis).
  16. Magubira, P (January 2017). "History as Hadzabes Secure Title Deed".

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This conservation resource was created by Tianyang Liu.