Think of East African tribes, and the Maasai probably spring to mind. But other tribes are – for better or for worse – becoming more involved in tourism, and one of the most controversial is the Hadzabe, also known as the Hadza. 1,000-2,000 Hadzabe still inhabit the plains of northern Tanzania, and less than half of these have been able to maintain the nomadic hunter-gatherer lifestyle that they have practised for millenia. Their hunting knowledge, traditional dress and unusual click language – which isolates them from any other tribe – make them appealing to tourists, yet at a time when they have lost up to 90 percent of their traditional hunting and foraging grounds*, this also makes them open to easy exploitation.
Having resisted attempts to “settle” them or convert them to Christianity them for centuries, the Hadzabe are now losing their land and livelihoods thanks to seemingly more innocuous sources. Datooga herders are moving in, their cattle destroying the vegetation and water holes needed by the Hadzabe. As an egalitarian, nomadic society – the Hadzabe have no “proof” that the land they have inhabited for millennia is actually theirs
, and cannot claim it back. A 2001 BBC documentary created foreign interest in this “exotic” tribe – and the subsequent influx of tourists, money and alcohol proved disastrous. Finally, the annexing of land for private hunting reserves has meant that, paradoxically, the Hadzabe are now being imprisoned for being poachers if they return to hunt on their old land.
However, tourism could now present an opportunity for the Hadzabe to once again control their livelihoods and generate sustainable income. In a historical move, the Tanzanian government recently granted the Hadzabe land titles
– and the ability to sustain activities such as tourism may strengthen their case for remaining on their land. This is an enormous achievement; as landowners, these formerly powerless people have been given an opportunity to take control of their future. They can choose whether to give tourists and tour operators access to this land – or not – and how much to charge for this. They can rent the land to a lodge or camp, and control the types of interaction that they have with tourists. The balance is finally, gradually, shifting towards the Hadzabe.
* Source: Radical Anthropology Report
and Survival International
What you can do:
Currently, many tours to visit the Hadzabe are carried out in an unethical way. Those involved are likely to have been forced to abandon their traditional lifestyles, and will be “performing” purely for tourists; receiving little or none of the fee that has been paid. It has also been suggested that the hunts regularly staged for the benefit of tourists are causing a rapid depletion of wildlife – in areas where animals are already suffering as a result of climate change, overdevelopment and scarce water resources.
So if you do still decide to visit, there are a few things you can do to ensure you are helping, not harming. Longer tours and overnight stays may become possible in the near future, with money being paid directly to the community – so keep an eye out for this – but while operators and guides from outside the community continue mediating the experience, the following is advised:
Be respectful when taking photos
– always ask permission first.
Currently, you shouldn’t expect to stay overnight
– this is a real village, not a tourist camp.
Do not hand out gifts or money.
However well-meaning, this can encourage begging or a dependence on tourists. If you do want to contribute, speak to your tour operator first and they may be able to advise you what to bring, as well as arranging the best person to distribute it.
Ensure you travel with a guide who speaks Hadzabe
and has grown up locally or knows the community well.
Keep the exchange just that – an exchange.
Share information about yourself as well as asking about the Hadzabe.
Read more about the Hadzabe in National Geographic