Today our program took a trip to visit members of the Tanzanian tribe known as the Hadzabe. The Hadza people are some of the last remaining hunters and gatherers left on Earth, and have maintained their culture with limited changes throughout their known time in Tanzania. They are estimated to be one of the original tribes in the Tanzania area, with historians estimating that they have been situated in the same general area for the past several thousand years.
Traveling to the area where the Hadzabe were was a challenge in and of itself. It required traveling for quite a while down one of the most rocky and unkempt roads I’ve seen during my time here (which is really saying a lot), and then involved hiking up a small cliff in order to finally arrive where all of the men were sitting.
The first thing we did was learn how to make a fire using friction. A piece of softwood was placed on a blade, and then a long hard-wooded stick was rubbed against the softwood repeatedly in a downward fashion in order to generate a pile of smoking ashes on the blade – which makes it sound WAY easier than it actually is. These heated ashes from the softwood could then be placed on anything which needed to be heated or set on fire. They chose to use the ashes to light up their drug of choice: Marijuana. They typically smoke marijuana to decrease fatigue when hunting, but use it for other purposes as well. They informed us that they gather the leaves and buds from an area near the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, nearly 10 miles away, which they travel to and from by foot.
After this, we learned (or attempted to learn in my case) how to shoot a bow and arrow from the men. This is their sole means of killing animals and obtaining meat for food, and it was clear to see when every single one of them hit the target straight on with just one arrow. Partway through our shooting practice, two young Hadza men walked over carrying a fresh dik-dik kill over their shoulders. They definitely seemed to be experts in their craft.
Finally, we went with the women to find roots and tubers that they typically use as a substitute for drinking water. We wandered into the woods for a while before finding what they deemed to be a good spot. Then they started digging until they pulled out and cut up some tubers to eat. Although not very flavorful, they were definitely full of water. While we were doing this, we also split some baobab fruit that had fallen on the ground, and sucked on the seeds as a snack.
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The Hadzabe tribe lives in such a sustainable and environmentally friendly way. As my professor Dr. Mwamhanga said, the Hadza are some of the only people in Tanzania that never have a shortage or worry about food. They have different species of plants and animals that are hunted and gathered depending on the season, and their bodies have even adjusted to allow them to spend several days without actually drinking water. They have such a unique way of life compared to most in today’s day and age. However, it may not remain this way for much longer.
Tourists and pastoralists have recently caused a significant amount of damaging impacts on the Hadza. Pastoralists have encroached on land previously used for hunting by the Hadza, and have utilized all of the resources in the area, pushing away wildlife that used to be highly prevalent. This has diminished the food supply in the area, so the Hadza have been getting smaller and smaller game each year they hunt.
Tourists, however, have brought in a different kind of trouble. Money. The Hadza before had no means, and also no reason, to acquire money. Now that tourists have given them monetary compensation, they have a disposable income that was not present before. Unfortunately, this disposable income has caused alcoholism to develop strongly in these areas that take part in cultural tourism. Many tribe members now spend the majority of their days drinking, rather than working to find food and resources, when nearly five years ago none of them even knew what beer was. Although it is obviously not intentional, cultural tourism for the Hadzabe tribe has caused difficult problems, and may unintentionally become the downfall of hunters and gatherers on Earth.
For more on the impacts of cultural tourism on the Hadzabe tribe, I highly recommend reading this article. It give a more in-depth and insightful look on the changes occurring in this unique tribe: http://tyglobalist.org/in-the-magazine/theme/taking-shots/