Last Updated: Friday, 27 November 2015, 12:04 GMT

World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - United Republic of Tanzania : Hadza/Hadzabe

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 2008
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - United Republic of Tanzania : Hadza/Hadzabe, 2008, available at: [accessed 29 November 2015]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


Hadza, numbering perhaps 800, are nomadic hunter-gatherers living in the rocky hills and arid valleys to the east and south-west of Lake Eyasi in northern Tanzania. They speak a language currently unrelatable to any other. They are acknowledged by neighbouring people to be the original inhabitants of the area. Hadza social structures are communal and egalitarian, with no system of chiefs and strong obligations to share resources, particularly food. Hadza reliance on hunting and gathering remains high. Adequate supplies of fruits, berries and tubers as well as abundant game make this way of life nutritionally adequate and ecologically sustainable.

Historical context

Government policies have reflected the widespread belief that hunting and gathering is unacceptable and degrading, and should be given up. In colonial times unsuccessful attempts were made to convert Hadza to peasant farmers, a policy intensified after independence though still with only limited success.

Hadza land has been treated as if it were unoccupied, and both agriculturalists and pastoralists have been encouraged to settle there, even though aridity makes it unsuitable for crops and tsetse fly make it unsuitable for cattle. However, in recent years Barabaig pastoralists displaced from their own land have taken over large areas of Hadza country. In the west of Hadza territory Sukuma farmers have also settled in large numbers. Following pressure from Hadza and from a Canadian volunteer organization, a limited amount of land was registered in 1994 in the core area of Hadza country. However, the government has retained rights over hunting, subsequently leasing them out to a commercial company. The political weakness of the Hadza makes it impossible for them to resist settlement even over the land where their rights are recognized.

A further threat to Hadza society comes from the nature of the education system. Although most Hadza want their children to attend school their only option is for children to board over nine months a year from the age of six, being taught only in Swahili from non-Hadza teachers - a process amounting to forced assimilation on lines which have failed elsewhere.

Current issues

In 2006 Oxfam warned that loss of land to farming and wildlife preservation threatened the continued existence of the Hadza people. In 2007, the Hadzabe hunter-gatherers close to the Serengeti plains in Tanzania scored a rare victory. According to reports in June 2007, the Tanzanian government struck a deal to lease the land, which was traditionally occupied by the Hadzabe, to a safari company from the United Arab Emirates. Although the deal supposedly included the development of roads and education facilities, the Hadzabe - who number around 1,500 - were not consulted on it, and were reportedly opposed to it. Following a campaign by indigenous activists, Survival International reported in November 2007 that the safari company had withdrawn from the project.

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