James Woodburn

Name ID 980

external link

See also

Millett, Katherine The Hadza Tribe of Tanzania
Extract Author: Katherine Millett and Thomson Safaris
Page Number: 1
Extract Date: 2001

The Hadza Tribe of Tanzania

All images and text courtesy and ©2000 Thomson Safaris, Inc.

Trees almost hid the grass huts. The fireplaces were still warm. When Barbara Zucker-Pinchoff held her palm over a circle of rocks, she could feel heat from the embers. The ground was littered with feathers, mostly from guinea fowl. A group of Hadza people had just left the campsite. They had taken all their possessions with them.

Barbara and Barry Zucker-Pinchoff, both doctors from New York City, took their three daughters on a walking safari last year in Tanzania. Barbara told about their experience in Kinbero, "the most remote place I have ever been," camping with a few other Americans, two Tanzanian guides, and several Hadza who had time to sit and chat because they had just killed a giraffe.

About 400 members of the Eastern Hadza tribe (also known as the Tindiga or Kindiga) live in Tanzania today, the only hunter-gatherers who reamain in Africa. It was a mere 12,000 years ago that our ancestors domesticated plants and animals. Until then, hunter-gatherers dominated Africa as they did the rest of the world. Since human beings first appeared in the form of homo habilis two million years ago, according to anthropologist Richard B. Lee, we have been hunter-gatherers for 99 percent of the time. To look at it another way, of the eighty billion people who have walked the earth, 90 percent of them have been hunter-gatherers.

The Hadza hunt game, gather edible plants and honey, and move from place to place whenever the weather changes, or the wild herds migrate, or they just feel like moving. In small groups of about eighteen adults and their children, they pitch camps among the rocks and trees of the dry savanna where they live on 1,000 square miles near Lake Eyasi, a salt lake in northern Tanzania. Every two weeks or so, they move to a new campsite.

At the Pinchoffs' campsite, three Hadza men stopped by to visit and ended up staying three days. Barbara described their first interaction. One of the guides gave the men a cigarette. They took out the tobacco, put it in a pipe, and lit the pipe with fire they started by twirling a wooden firedrill.

It takes less than two hours for Hadza women to build a new camp. They make huts by bending and weaving branches into round structures about six feet high, then covering them with thick clumps of long, golden grass. Or, if the weather is very wet, the women may skip the hut building and choose a dry cave to set up a camp that includes a hearth, cooking vessels, sleeping mats made of animal skins, and tools for sharpening stones and scraping skins. Some rock caves have been used intermittently over thousands of years and are decorated with ancient rock paintings.

Whether they sleep in huts, caves or in the open, the Hadza cover themselves only with thin cloths and rely on fire to keep them warm. It takes them less than 30 seconds to start a fire by rotating wooden firedrills between their palms and creating friction in a hollowed-out scrap of soft wood.

A couple of days later, the Hadza men were sitting at camp when one suddenly called for silence. "He told our guide that he had heard the bird they follow to honey," Barbara said. "The three of them ran up a hill, and a few minutes later we saw smoke. One of them ran down to borrow a big, metal basin from our cook. A while later, they brought it down full of honey and comb. They had wood in their hair, they had been stung in several places, and they were laughing away. Our guide later told us they make money selling honey, but they seemed very happy to share it with us, with no thought of saving it for cash."

The Hadza steadfastly refuse to be "settled" into villages or to adopt the life of sedentary farmers. For seventy years they have resisted efforts by the English colonial government, and later the Tanzanian government, to limit their living space or make them grow crops. From time to time, substantial amounts of money have been spent to move the Hadza into government-built housing and teach them to grow cotton. The Hadza may stay for a short time, while free food is available, but then they return to the bush. The largest resettlement occurred in 1964, when the government of Tanzania provided brick houses, piped water, schools, and a medical clinic, but many of the Hadza got sick or died because of the monotonous diet and the boring lifestyle. By 1979, almost all of them had returned to their old, nomadic ways. The Hadza may be the only tribe in Africa that has never paid taxes.

James Woodburn, an English social anthropologist, studied the 400 Eastern Hadza people intensively from 1958 to 1960 and revisited them frequently in later years. The following information is derived from his numerous published articles.

Extract ID: 3114

external link

See also

Hanby, Jeannette Help the Hadza?
Extract Date: 2000

Help the Hadza?


Working independently in African wildlife conservation for many years, a group of dedicated researchers, tour operators and conservationists came together and pooled their resources and experience to form Tanzania’s best hope for preserving one of Earth’s last remaining edens. Tazama!Trust founder Kim Ellis-Josch teamed up with former Serengeti Lion Project researchers Jeannette Hanby and David Bygott to develop a more holistic approach to conservation. Joined in their quest by wildlife scientist Melly Reuling and the Peterson Brothers of Dorobo Safaris, they address the problems arising from the pressures of developing Africa and the effects on its people, environment and wildlife. Helping communities living in wilderness areas take charge of natural resources, Tazama!Trust works to empower Africans to save and protect endangered treasures for future generations.


'Help the Hadza?' by JP Hanby, 2000

Two Hadza men, in temporary alliance, came to ask us for some help. Written on their note was: 'Pleas can you help us about drawing picture of Hadzabe life. This is because we want our Right and our Land.' Signed: Naftal Zengu and Gudo Mahiya. PS. (from Naftal) 'I need help of lift to Karatu'.

Naftal wanted us to do a logo and pictures for his proposal to start a non-governmental organization, the 'Hadzabe Survival Organization' - a vague document about human and land rights. Gudo was being unusually supportive of Naftal’s proposal - he usually scoffs at paperwork and people who use 'blah blah'. Naftal insisted that the NGO was needed in order to raise and receive funds for certain Hadza to carry on political activities including going to International Conferences. It was not at all clear how the organization would 'help' the Hadzabe who still live out in the bush.

It was easier to help Naftal with the lift. On the way up the rocky road he and I had a spirited discussion about the Hadzabe. There are but a few hundred of these traditional hunter-gatherers living in their wild homelands around the Eyasi Basin. Whether they will survive as a cultural unit or get absorbed by their more numerous neighbours is always a topic of concern. The basic question is cultural survival. In this particular case, can people who gather wild foods survive under pressures from people with agricultural and livestock keeping practices? Are these different lifestyles compatible? If incompatible, is the hunter-gatherer lifestyle doomed? Realistically, can anything be done to 'help' them retain land and lifestyle? Or should one 'help' them change their ways?

A widespread assumption is that the hunter-gatherers - nowadays called foragers - do not want to change. In the Hadza case this assumption may not be completely valid. I have asked several which they would rather have, the random bag of grain from 'donors', cash and t-shirts from tourists, free housing, hoes and seeds from the government, or their homeland protected from outsiders so they could continue to gather fruits, tubers and honey and hunt wild animals. After pondering, the answer usually is: 'All of it'.

Development often means degradation, and as we lurched up the gullied road, the ravages from charcoal burners and meagre maize farmers made us qustion where there was any 'land' left for the Hadza to have rights to. Suddenly besides the road appeared a small group of Hadza. They came out of the bush complete with their bows, arrows, babies, and bags of freshly gathered wild fruits. We stopped. Naftal wanted to tell them about his proposed organization and how much they needed the help. They looked totally bemused. The contrast between Naftal in his western-style clothes and the Hadza group in their earth-toned rags was dramatic. So too their postures, the lithe family group loose and ready to walk, Naftal gesticulating like a man in Hyde Park, in shoes made for carpets and conferences. You would never have known that they were from the same tribe except that they were all using the same click-filled Hadza language.

Naftal went onwards to the other side of Hadzaland, where he continues to promote his own view for Hadza development, for settling down, mainly in his appointed village of Mongo wa Mono where he feels the Hadza should become Christians as well as farmers. After coping with chores in the burgeoning town of Karatu, I rocked back down the long dusty road. At the little oasis near Eyasi which we call home I found Gudo still there. He was waiting to be 'local guide' for some tourists. He represents the other view of Hadza development, expressing the vague hope that they can retain their old ways in spite of profound changes to their homeland.

Among Gudo’s many endeavours, from beekeeping to tour guiding, he has put together some of the traditional stories of his people (see box story). Because of his skills and even temper Gudo has been an essential informant, translator and helper of many visitors. He is both tolerant and sceptical about people’s aims. He frowned and said 'What do we Hadza want with this NGO run by Naftal. Does it help us to have Naftal and those other Hadza go to these conferences in Geneva or wherever? Maybe it helps them. Maybe it helps the conference, but what about us?'

It is a hard question to answer. Does advertising the Hadza in films, articles, on the internet, at conferences do anything more than promote simple sympathy and curiosity on the part of oursiders? Gudo wanted to know specifically about an article written recently about the Hadza in an East African wildlife magazine. At my suggestion, the author had used Gudo as a guide on his two day excursion through Hadzaland. This led to an article with Gudo as hero or victim who laments the loss of homeland. I tried to translate it for him from the English to Kiswahili. Gudo was distressed at the article’s superficiality. He suggested that I write something to tell about the current Hadza situation - a plea to other people for understanding. So here I am trying to 'help' the Hadza by sketching out for you the confusing and chaotic nature of help in Hadzaland. Bear with us, the Hadza are worth a little understanding.

Much has been written about the Hadza but there seems to be little widespread knowledge about them. And that goes for inside as well as outside Tanzania. Most of the information available is hidden away in myriad reports and obscure articles written by researchers, government officers, charities or aid agencies. Although there is quite a large body of anthropological work published there is no major book or report or monograph on these people since James Woodburn’s work in the 60’s. (Woodburn, at the Dept of Anthropology in London School of Economics, continues to visit and publish about the Hadza concentrating on social aspects.)

Research on the Hadza continues. A team headed by Nicholas Blurton-Jones at UCLA with colleagues Kristen Hawkes and James O’Connell at the University of Utah have come repeatedly and send students. Archeologists also find the traditional Hadza useful for insights in the way humans might have lived in the past. Most of the recent work emphasises the importance of the Hadza in their ecological context and tends to focus on particular questions - workers gather data on topics such as how much food grandmothers or fathers actually provide to their relatives. Studies of the Hadza people have provided disparate and important data for many discussions and articles on themes from nutrition to menopause. (for one example see New Scientist, 7 Feb 98 pg 14)

The worth of the traditionally living Hadza to the academic community is great. So what have all the researchers learned over the years? The following is a sample from hours I have spent with the Hadza, talking to researchers and reading many reports and papers (for some references see: http//www.gseis.ucla.edu/facpage/blurtonjones.html)..

Who are the Hadza? They call themselves Hadzabe (had-za-bay), Hadza for short. Most of the Hadza are short too (160 cm on average), but a few, like Naftal, are tall, because some Hadza have intermarried with other peoples. Although their appearance is not a distinctive trait, their language is unique in the world and their lifestyle is now as rare as digging sticks are at your local market. Probably less than 1000 people still speak the Hadza language - which is not closely related to the Khoisan click languages of southern Africa, the language family that includes the !Kung - it seems to be unique. Many fewer than 1000 Hadza speakers still roam the semi-arid bushlands around the Lake Eyasi basin of western Tanzania (see map).

Eyasi is a large soda lake; dry for most of the year (until El Nińo filled it up this year). To the north-west is a steep escarpment, part of the Great Rift Valley system. A few Hadza live on top of this Eyasi scarp and have access to Serengeti and surrounds. But the heartland of the Hadza’s once extensive range is the grassy Yaeda Valley and wooded Kidero hills to the east and south of the lake. Here there are rocky mountains and valleys, small springs and stretches of seasonal marshland. Rainfall over the whole area is normally low, about 300mm to 600mm (similar to southern California). Trees grow slowly and have lots of thorns. There are huge baobabs with nutritious seeds and homes for bees. Bushes are often laden with delicious small fruits. It is an area of stark beauty. And to the Hadza, bountiful.

Remarkably, the lifestyle of many Hadza today is very like that reported by early visitors. The Hadza men still hunt, especially at night from blinds and in daytime from walking about. Women and children still forage for wild food. Honey is still traded with neighbours for tobacco, iron, clothing and cooking pots. The Hadza still live in small kin groups and move frequently. They still tell stories around their campfires; they still live in camps. Shelters built of sticks and grass are all they need in the dry climate. Sometimes the Hadza return to their rock shelters, many of which still bear the paintings and designs left by their presumed ancestors, but mostly they make temporary, seasonal camps which deteriorate quickly when they move on.

Hadza living traditionally do not have to work hard to supply themselves daily with enough food. However, they have to be ready to survive extended difficult periods. Bush food is very nutritious. The bulk of Hadza food is roots, tubers, shoots, fruits, mainly gathered by women who spend 4 - 7 hours foraging per day, almost every day. Hunters about the same. Fertility and birth rate of Hadza are below that of national averages but the population has been slowly increasing. Hadza children contribute a great deal to their own diet. Hadza grandmothers and post-menopausal women really do contribute significantly to their offspring’s survival. Hadza fathers contribute more care to their own children than to their step children and they appear to adjust their parental effort in response to mating opportunities.

Hunting supplies only a small but a socially important part of the diet. An exceptionally good hunter may earn high status, worth more to his reproductive potential than his contribution of meat is worth to the tribe let alone his family. Meat is shared widely. Scavenging occurs but does not contribute a major part of food intake. The Hadza lifestyle is a very healthy one. Health deteriorates when they live in settlements.

Decision making is consensual and includes both men and women. Camps are named after men. It is often the women who decide when to move camp and all Hadza squabble about where they will go and what they will do. The Hadza do not traditionally have chiefs or leaders, nor even a village elder system but occasionally a single powerful man influences the community. In contrast to surrounding tribes the Hadza are very egalitarian.

Most of the older Hadza haven’t been to school like Gudo and Naftal. The bush-dwelling Hadza are wary of their educated, 'modernized' tribesmates. They cannot read nor write but they can start a fire with a stick, find bush food, make sandals, adornments, bows and arrows, hunt animals, gather honey and look after the interests of their kin. The older Hadza twinkle with teasing, teach their grandchildren their stories and songs as well as where to find water and food. I wish you could hear the strong, shrill voices of the women as they tease, scold, soothe and sing. If nothing else, the Hadza are joyful people; to be among them lifts one’s spirits - when they aren’t begging and cajoling you for something!

On dark nights especially, the Hadza sing and dance. They are a musical people. Travelling with two or more in the car invariably leads to merry singing on the trip. Once I organized a safari to the rock paintings of Central Tanzania with archaeologist Mary Leakey. The aim of the trip was to show a few Hadza the rock art; we wanted to get their opinions about the pictures. Here is a song Gudo and Kampala invented during the dusty drives between rock shelters: (Transcription by linguist Bonny Sands)

Likiko, Leakey,

musiyobakwa she is troubling us

shauri ya koeta because of them

Hadzabe kenebe the Hadzabe of long ago

Hukwa maha’a Get up! Let’s go!

’isawabi’I The caves!

(dental click) iyetabita We’ll see them

Hadzabe kenebe the Hadzabe of long ago

In contrast to the majority of present day East African people, the Hadza seem not to have come from somewhere else. They are indigenous. Outsiders have been coming into the Eyasi area for many years, mainly agro-pastoral Iraqw, pastoral Datoga and Maasai and agricultural Bantu groups. All these immigrants found the Hadza roaming the hills and valleys, hunting and gathering. Immigrants almost universally share a negative attitude to the Hadza who are seen as primitive, backward, poor and with disgusting food habits. Most local people consider themselves superior to and better off than the Hadza. To them the Hadza as a source of barter, as guards for crops and homesteads or simply as childlike primitives, to poke fun at, criticise or ignore. Left alone, the immigrants would probably slowly swamp or displace the Hadza.

But the immigrants are not the only people to come to Hadzaland. Outsiders come and go. It is mostly outsiders that want to 'help' the Hadza. In addition to the 'traditionalists' who wish the Hadza could stay as 'wild' foragers there are many more who want to help guide these people into the modern world. The Hadza themselves, as well as outsider, all have different points of view, aims and actions. It creates a real muddle.

An obvious question is why do so many outsiders want to help the Hadza, in stark comparison to the lack of desire to help many other rural groups. The answer is that outsiders find the Hadza attractive. They are fun; they inspire people. A classic romantic version of the Hadza was told by Peter Matthiessen after visiting them in the 60’s, in his charming book, The Tree Where Man Was Born. The fascination with these cheerful, bush wise people seems endless.. Besides the reams of researchers, samples of students and piles of professionals there are the medicos, the maverick and messianic individuals who now come to study, save or document the Hadza. They bring their dreams, diseases and religions, food and material objects all to 'help' the Hadza and all of which inevitably change the Hadza.

One of the most disruptive sources of help is money. Hadza economy was never on a cash basis, hardly even barter, for the Hadza were used to sharing freely. Sharing seems not to be so much reciprocal as what one researcher calls 'demand sharing' and another, to make the point even more emphatically, 'tolerated theft'. This still seems to be basic. When I gave a woman a kanga (colorful printed cotton wrap-around), it next appeared around her son’s loins, next over the head of a sister’s child, and finally around the waist of her cousin before it disappeared. I asked her where her kanga was, she waved and said with a fake pout 'It went'.

Items obtained by one’s own efforts, such as a hunk of meat, a bit of clothing, some fruits, are all to be shared with whomever wants it. This attitude causes great consternation when sums of money are brought to the Hadza. For instance, there was a recent foray from the BBC. They came to film the way the Hadza cope with bush life. They said they wanted not to interfere, to be low key, yet brought in the usual team which photographed, recorded, then vanished. Before leaving they proudly donated many pounds, by local standards, to 'help' the Hadza. All who participated in the BBC film expected to get a share. Ousider onsultants got good pay; local guides a little. But the lump sum was removed from the Hadza, the responsibility for the use of the money remains with outsiders. The Hadza are very distressed by this. Likewise, money from tourism often goes into accounts which can only be operated by a few individuals who all too often misuse it for their own ends (e.g. booze).

One of the major gripes of the Hadza and all indigenous peoples is that they have so little control over their future or land. Governments seldom see foragers as having rights to the land or wildlife where they traditionally lived. The Hadza feel powerless to keep out the immigrant pastoralists and farmers, government officials, the filmmakers, the curious, the 'helpers'. But what to do? Pastoralists everywhere are also suffering from displacement and the lack of communal land. The Maasai and Datoga have their sympathizers because they too are fighting against environmental degradation from the more numerous agriculutralists.

With more and more people crowding into their land, both the Hadza and the wild animals lose out along with the loss of vegetation cover and water. And the Hadza, to survive traditionally would need a lot of land, especially for hoofed animals. For instance a simplified case might be as follows: if each of the let us say 1000 Hadza people ate on average 1kg of meat per day and that wild animals average 150 kg, which when butchered might provide 100 kg of meat, then Hadza hunters would have to kill or scavenge roughly three and one half zebra like animals for each

person per year. Some 3 to 4000 animals would be needed to support that population with plenty of meat.* *

Hunting and sharing of meat may not be critical to Hadza physical survival but it probably is to their social survival. Gudo and all Hadza men pride themselves on the way they can shoot animals with their strong bows and variety of prey tailored arrows. But are there nowadays enough wild animals to support Hadza hunting? All would agree, no. So where have all the animals gone? Replaced by livestock, almost every one. No one knows the absolute numbers of wild animals left in the area but the last census (an aerial survey in 1992 by Tanzanian Wildlife Conservation Monitoring) revealed more than thirty head of livestock for each one of the estimated 2200 (large enough to count from the air) wild animals in a portion of the Eyasi basin. In addition to competition with livestock the wild animals are pursued by plenty of people eager for bush meat, or to hunt for 'sport' and even for export as live animals. Wildlife is heavily utilized here, legally and mostly illegally, and in any case, not in any sustainable way.

Competition for land, water, wood and wildlife are the Hadzas’ main worries. There are some other concerns. There are miners that prospect and dig for gemstones in Hadzaland; they make roads and holes (and kill animals) all over the area. This activity encourages local people to try their luck too. All too often they dig at rock shelters (after all, the archeologists did there implying there is somethng of value!). Add to the competitors, immigrants and treasure hunters a whole array of transient do-gooders and you begin to perceive the situation. (see cartoon).

There are missionaries proselytising and building churches, educators taking children away to schools, bureaucrats and politicians trying to get the Hadza to settle down and farm, health workers trying to build roads and new clinics, donors and aid workers such as CUSO, Oxfam-UK, CARITAS, Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands, each with its own form of help. Finally there are some truly amazing self- styled Hadza saviours who come from time to time, tossing out money and bags of grain, filming dances done grossly out of context, encouraging school children to run away and churches to be burnt down; taking individuals off to Europe; all this done in the name of helping the Hadza to remain traditional hunter-gatherers! It is truly astounding how much effort and money has been spent 'helping' the Hadza.

Tourists and other visitors to Africa want a share, a glimpse of the joy and the expertise of real, honest-to-goodness, wild humans. Firesticks and digging sticks, poison arrows and all, the Hadza are a great tourist draw.. Only a few safari companies are sensitive to the destructive effects of their tours. One company uses Hadza guides and gives back a portion of income to help the Hadza help themselves. But most companies don’t care, they find the Hadza useful as a tourist attraction in a cheap area to visit. Disruption is inevitable and sometimes ugly.

So how can any or all realistically help the Hadza? There are a few people genuinely concerned with the wider issues of land rights and life styles.. One utopian scenario would be to get the concerned folk to coordinate their efforts. They could then support local residents who would develop and implement their own plans for resource use. All the residents in the area would have to agree to let the Hadza hunt and gather with safeguards against livestock and farming in certain places. They would have to forbid outsiders to settle, make charcoal and kill wildlife as they please. Tracts of land would have to be kept as wildlife corridors between the conserved areas of Ngorongoro-Maswa-Serengeti and the Yaeda valley and hills so that animals could move about seasonally. By-laws would have to be enacted to protect the land and wildlife, such as a system of restrictions and fines for misuse. None or these negotiations would be easy nor fast. It would be a real challenge. Is it worth a try?

The application for a special Hadza organization brought to us the other day by Naftal and Gudo highlighted all the problems. Much help on paper is what Gudo calls 'blah blah' - jargon and buzz words - but down at the bottom is a genuine feeling that the Hadza should have a voice in their future and rights to some of their remaining land. Maybe there are people who might care and have patience enough to devise long term ways to 'help' the Hadza with more than bags of food, Bibles, or confusing advice. Help the Hadza sing their own song.

Stop for a moment and imagine a dark night full of stars, holding a warm child asleep in your lap, your campfire burning low, singing along with Gudo and his little group in the immensity of the African night. Maybe the Hadza will add to an old song (about the danger of nearby volcanoes and earthquakes).

Hadzabe, we’ll sing the night away Hadzabe, we all want to stay

What if the sun turns round Where we can see the sky

and the sky falls down Animals and fruits close by

We can’t go away, Here children play,

it is here we’ll stay we don’t want to go away.

* I base this estimate on data that we have used in our studies of lion predation in Serengeti. Wieght of ungulates obviously vaires eg. gazelles rather less than elephants and buffoloes! I take a rounded estimate of 150 kg for large animals and use 33% as the inedible portion of a carcass. See Schaller, 1972 The Serengeti Lion, U. Chicago Press and also Serengeti 1973 edited by A.R.E. Sinclair and M. Norton Griffiths and Serengeti II 1995 ed by A.R.E. Sinclair and P. Arcese. My estimate of 3.5 animals needed per Hadza per year compares well with that estimated for Kenya hunter-gatherers by I. Burchard (Swara 20:6 & 21:1). Compare this with estimates for poachers in the Serengeti with its much greater biomass who are estimated to take almost 9 animals per hunter per year.

Extract ID: 1526