Hadzabe, the last hunters-gatherers

Hadzabe people relaxing during a hunting trip
The Hadza

The Hadza are a group of hunter-gatherers who live in North-Western Tanzania between the Ngorongoro crater and the southern edge of Lake Eyasi.

They are not more than a thousand people living in an arid land, scattered in small camps that move constantly, following the seasons.

Like all other hunter-gatherers they’re nomadic, don’t breed animals, don’t cultivate crops. They get from the Nature what they need in order to feed and heal themselves. Their society is highly egalitarian: every member of the community owns the same rights over the whole land and is free to move around as he likes in order to hunt.

Their language (Hadzane) is highly resembling the click-language of the Bushman living in Southern Africa, but recent studies state that there is no connection between the two languages.

Hadzabe, the last hunters-gatherers . Preparing the poisoned arrows

Men and women share the work in order to feed the whole tribe. Men are the hunters: principal targets are large ungulates, mainly giraffes, zebras, and impalas and they are killed using poisoned arrows; these vary in size and dimension with regard to the chosen target. Women, collect berries, fruits, honey, dig roots and tubers and thus are responsible for providing 57% of the daily calories intake.

The Hadza collectivize all food brought to the camp and share everything equally between all the members. But there is a small secret: men don’t bring back to the camp everything they hunt and gather. Sometimes they eat directly small animals, berries and fruits.

The government push the Hadza to settle down in order to have more control over them,  but after every attempt to build a village or a community, Hadza men have always returned to the bush for foraging.

Hadzabe, the last hunters-gatherers . Morning gathering
Survival and risks

Still, the survival of the Hadza is at risk for two main reasons:

  • Hadza are surrounded by pastoralists and farmers who need more and more land in order to cope with the population’s growth. The Iraqw, who live in the highlands, where rainfall is plentiful, are primarily maize farmers; during the last decades their number has increased and many Iraqw have moved down from the highlands to the Haza land, clearing trees and attempting to farm maze in an area were Hadza used to hunt. The Datooga are pastoralists who share part of the land with the Hadza; during the dry season their herds drink the scarce water in Hadza waterholes and eat much of the vegetation needed to support wildlife. This is one of the main threats to continued Hadza hunting. Finally, the neighbour farmers need the land where the Hadza hunt freely and want to restrict their hunting area; Mangola, the closest town to the Hadza area, is a big onions farming area and the established plants are always trying to expand the cultivated area, to the detriment of the free land where Hadza forage.
  • Another threat to Hadza survival is tourism. Using to the money brought by tourists mainly during the dry season when they are more easily reachable, the Hadza refrain often from foraging and buy maize for food, bust also alcohol to which they are not really used.
Hadzabe, the last hunters-gatherers . Waking call
the last hunters-gatherers
Living with the Hadza

I wanted to witness the life of Hadza as it really is and was able to follow them during one hunting session. The photographs show the story of this day, from the awakening of the village before dawn to the preparation of the hunting tools to the collecting of water from pits dug in the dry bed of the Baray river, to the real search for animals.

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