Things White People Like - As Told By a Hadza Tribesman

When the Hadza hunter-gatherer people of northern Tanzania decided to slow deforestation in the Yaeda Valley, they turned to carbon markets. First, they had to do something they'd never done before: secure rights to the land they had been inhabiting for for 40,000 years.

By Allie Goldstein

This story first appeared on Ecosystem Marketplace. You can view the original here.

8 July 2015 | “Those are things of your white people,” says Richard Baalow when I ask him how he plans to sell his carbon offsets to corporate leaders.

Baalow is a member of a hunter-gatherer group called the Hadza, known as the “last of the first” – the approximately 1600 remaining members of the first known people to live in what is now Tanzania. He’s traveled from his homeland, the Yaeda Valley, to Arusha to speak to me via Skype.

“Us Africans know that our side of the world is clean,” he says. “Meanwhile, you white people know that your side of the world is spoiled, because you’re destroying the environment. That’s why you bring the carbon market to us. That’s why we say, ‘Welcome, Carbon Tanzania, and bring money!’ That’s the long and short of it.”

But the long story is worth telling, too.

Yaeda Valley Under Pressure
Even before Baalow met Marc Baker and Jo Anderson of the Arusha-based non-profit organization Carbon Tanzania, he had heard about REDD through the Dutch’s government’s presence in Tanzania. The acronym stands for “reduced emissions from deforestation and degradation” of forests, and it’s applied to a broad range of activities that cut greenhouse gas emissions by saving endangered rainforest. Communities like his can earn money for the carbon they keep locked in trees, and Baalow was eager to learn how the Hadza could participate.

The Hadza, whose culture can be traced back 40,000 years, have lost about 90% of their traditional homelands. As a non-aggressive hunter-gatherer group, “their response has always been to move. Just get out of the way,” explained Baker. The Hadza moved out of the way 3,000 years ago during the Bantu expansion throughout West Africa. They moved out of the way again about 300 years ago, for the Maasai.

the yaeda valley

Today, pressure is coming from Sakuma farmers and Datooga pastoralists, or herders. Habitat for the mammals that the Hadza hunt with bows and arrows – everything from giraffe to zebra to baboons to bats – is dwindling. The Hadza needed a plan, and getting paid to conserve the natural resource base they live off of sounded like a good one.

“There is a new food for the world, and it’s called REDD,” Baalow said.

Land Rights for a 40,000-Year-Old Culture
Before the Hadza could earn money for the carbon stored in the Yaeda Valley, they had to prove that they owned the land they had been living off of for millennia – and establishing that ownership could provide benefits well beyond the carbon income.

“Before this project, nobody had any rights,” Baalow said.

Richard Baalow works on a map of the Hadza territory. | Photo courtesy of Carbon Tanzania.

Land reforms of the 1990s led the Hadza to formalize two “villages” so that they could secure communal land rights under the Ministry of Lands. But by 2009, so many outsiders had moved into the villages that the majority of the representatives on the Village Council were non-Hadza. Baalow began working alongside legal advisor Edward Lakita at the Ujaama Community Resource Team on a different solution.

They decided to try a legal instrument called the Certificate of Customary Rights of Occupancy (CCRO) that had previously been used in Tanzania to formalize land rights for individuals. The Nature Conservancy (TNC), another partner in the project, paid for lawyers and meetings. It took years, but the Hadza eventually convinced the Tanzanian government to issue a CCRO to an entire community. In 2011, the Ministry of Lands issued the first-ever group CCRO, and the Hadza’s ownership of 20,000 hectares was finally on the books.

“Without that security of land tenure and resource tenure, you couldn’t begin to think about a 20-year carbon project, because at the current rate we’d have pastoralists moving all through this system,” said Matt Brown, TNC’s Africa Director. “The Hadza basically would have lost a lot more of their homeland, so securing the land legally through these CCROs is just absolutely critical.”

Baalow has traveled to several international indigenous peoples forums to speak about the process, and the Ujaama Community Resource Team has since worked with about 20 communities in Northern Tanzania to secure community land rights in the same way. Several of those CCROs went to the Sakuma and the Datooga – the neighboring groups who themselves were being pushed into Hadza territory partly because of insecure land rights.

“There’s this chain reaction,” said Brown.