The Yaeda Valley Tourism Program began when the Hadzabe community invited a small, family-owned safari outfitter to bring outsiders into the Lake Eyasi region where they eek out hunter-gather existence. From the outset, the Hadza (as they are called in English) were concerned that tourism in the valley serve the Hadza’s needs and values. That led to a series of meetings resulting in a carefully developed program of cross-cultural interactions with visitors that is structured by not staged.
The Hadza, a small ethnic group of hunter-gatherers, are the earliest known inhabitants of the Yaeda Valley, though no one can say for sure when they arrived or where they came from originally. Linguistic research suggests that while their language has similarities to the Khoisan language group of the Bushmen and Hottentots, it cannot be categorized in any of the recognized major ethno-linguistic groups.
Remarkably, the Hadza have managed to keep their culture and primitive lifestyle intact despite many of the same pressures that have all but extinguished most of the world’s hunting-gathering societies since the advent of agriculture some 10,000 years ago. In the past few decades, however, the Hadza have lost as much as 90 percent of their former homeland in the Lake Eyasi region to settlement by other ethnic groups. Today, the Hadza number altogether between 1,000 and 1,500 people, and the Yaeda Valley is one of their last stands. The Yaeda Valley Tourism Program is based on two major principles:
1. The Hadza have valuable knowledge that the rest of the world has lost.
Hunting and gathering cultures, with their foundation of ecological prudence, have lessons to teach all people of the world. What the Hadza would like you, as a visitor, to take home is an appreciation of their culture not as an antiquated tradition disconnected from the modern world but as a valid part of it. This approach to tourism provides new insights for visitors coming from the modern world and bolsters the self-identity among an indigenous people victimized by severe prejudice and discrimination.
2. Community values and goals are paramount.
Because Hadza land is a communal resource and Hadza society is egalitarian, tourism is judged worthwhile only if it enhances community land and resource rights. In particular, tourism should not permit individuals to profit at the expense of the community. Tourist proceeds go primarily to community accounts, though smaller fees (structured by the community) may be paid to local individuals who take part in a given tourist visit. Yaeda Valley Tourism Today
The Yaeda Valley comprises four official villages two of which, Mongo wa Mono and Domanga, have significant numbers of Hadza. A third community, Eshkesh, is dominated by Datoga pastoralists who are also victims of advancing development having lost former homelands and moved more recently into the valley. The settlement of Yaeda Chini is a mix of Iraqw, Iramba, Isanzu and Barabaig (a Datoga group), all of whom have moved in from neighboring areas. After seeing the benefits tourism generated for the Hadza, the other villages asked to be included in the program. While the Hadza villages still benefit most, the other villages and the District Council now receive financial remuneration for each tourist night in the valley. Their inclusion has broadened support for the program’s initiatives, notably protection of the valley’s environment which has been most damaged by harvest and burning of forest for charcoal production. Your Visit With the Hadza
The following guidelines are designed to help guests of the Hadza conduct their visits in a way that minimizes impact on local culture consistent with the wishes of the communities. Further advice and assistance will be provided by “community representatives,” chosen by the Hadza (on an alternating basis) to accompany vistors.
• Tourist camps should be located at least one kilometer from Hadza bush camps.
• Visits to bush camps should generally last about two hours, and never more than half a day. As a visitor, you can make the most of your limited time in the valley by reading background information provided by Wildland Adventures and by entering the region without judgment, expectation or pretense, participating in local daily life if and when it seems appropriate. Take your lead from your guide and the community representatives who will be in camp with you.
• The Hadza are accepting of having their picture taken, however respect does behoove one to look and enjoy the interaction with people first rather than primarily looking for photo ops.
• Visitors are asked not to purchase artifacts or give gifts except in pre-arranged terms prior to travel. Failure to observe this guideline will quickly result in subsequent encounters turning into a marketplace. This position has been discussed and agreed on by the community. The Dorobo Fund
Working through our local outfitter and guides who have established a close working relation with the village governing councils, Wildland Adventures and our travelers have contributed to the Dorobo Fund to help the Hadza safeguard their land and resources. The Dorobo Fund works through government structures to address issues of land rights, immigration, and sustainable use of resources. In recent years, the Hadza have become outnumbered by immigrants and lost political control of their village council which has established successful land use plans to support sustainable tourism and other activities. With additional support from the Norweigian People's Aid and The Nature Conservancy, the Dorobo Fund has recently help secure land title of Hadza village zones that are restricted to conservation and traditional use the by the Hadza for hunting and gathering.
Neither the tourist program nor the Dorobo Fund aims to keep the Hadza as they are. Rather, the goal of both initiatives is to enable the Hadza to determine their own future by protecting their land and resources. If you are interested in supporting these efforts, please speak with your guide and ask us for more information.
We know your visit to the Yaeda Valley will be transformational for you and your hosts, and we welcome your feedback.
The Dorobo Fund is a 501 C3 registered tax-deductible organization www.dorobofund.org