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Herculean task to empower Hadzabe with farming tools

23rd January 2013
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Hadzabe Bushmen of Lake Eyasi. The Hadza are the last hunter-gatherer tribe in Tanzania, an ethnic minority of approximately 800 members. The lifestyle of the Hadza is still similar to ancient stone-age or iron-age times although the environment they live in is endangered by the settling Bantu tribes living nearby. (File photo)

Tanzania has embarked on a project geared to empower the Hadzabe bushmen with farming skills in a renewed effort to get them involved in agricultural activities and do away with their primitive ways of life.

The Hadzabe form a very small tribe of about 1,500 hunter gatherers living around Lake Eyasi to the south of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in northern Tanzania and they are the last remaining ancestors of the original hunters, who speak click language.

For centuries Hadzabe have been relying on roots, wild fruits, honey and wild animals, which have been dwindling due to unprecedented climate change.

"We are trying to make these bushmen understand farming activities and get out from the primitive communal modal of production, the lives they have been living for many years," Mbulu District Commissioner Anatoli Choya said on Monday.

He stated that Hadzabe tribesmen are currently overwhelmed with a number of challenges, making them at risk of extinction.

"We have started giving them farming tools and seedlings. We came to this point after establishing that their traditional food was no longer available as neighbouring tribes had invaded their forests," said the area commissioner.

So far, 50 families in three villages inhabited by the community have already been given 100 hand-hoes and 500 kgs of sorghum seedlings to make them utilise few rains which are expected to come in the next few weeks.

Choya revealed that for many years, the Tanzanian government had been supplementing Hadzabe with assorted food items, "but this time round we want them to get farming skills and be able to produce food for their families."

The idea of the programme is to make Hadzabe become fully engaged in farming activities for future food security of the community, he said, when handing over the support in the Mongoamono village, one of the three settlements targeted with the project.

The move is also in line with the commitment made by Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, who recently pledged to empower the community with farming skills so that they become self-sufficient with food.

"We'll make a closer follow-up on this initiative as we want everybody in the area to engage fully in farming," Kikwete said.

"This initiative is going to be a big relief to us," one of the Hadzabe members in the area, Athumani Magandula said.

He however asked the government to provide them with extension officers who will be responsible for giving education on farming.

"We thank the government for the hand-hoe and seedlings support, but we don't have farming education. For instance, I have no idea on farming, what I know is honey extraction," said Hamis Lukala, a Hadzabe man in the village.

Lukala cited another challenge as lack of storage facilities as they have no permanent shelter like other communities do.

"We are in trouble right now as the entire Yaeda Chini valley has no more wild animals, roots and wild fruits for human consumption. This has been contributed by a number of factors including overgrazing. So, farming is the best option to us," he said.

Mbulu District Council's extension officer Julitha Bulagi said the council has completed building a house for a livestock officer who will be posted to the area very soon. She added that the council now grapples to erect a house for the ward extension officer.

"At this time when we are waiting for new employment for extension officers, the district council will supervise the programme," she said.

Until the 1950s, the Hadzabe bushmen survived entirely by hunting and gathering.

Living in small mobile camps, they had no "chiefs" or formal political organisation. Since then life has become increasingly hard as larger pastoralist tribes have encroached on much of their land, destroying much of the wildlife and plants on which the Hadzabe rely for their livelihoods.

SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN