‘Stone-age’ Hadza face critical food shortage

By Arusha Times Correspondent

The hunter-gatherer Hadzabe tribe living on the shores of the remote and semi-arid Lake Eyasi are facing critical food shortage once again.

Those living at Dumanga village, Eshkesh ward in Mbulu district, Manyara region are pleading for relief food from the government.

The small tribe of not more than 2,000 members has been leading stone age life and relying on wild fruits and berries, tubers and roots, honey and hunting wild animals for food.

Speaking during a recent meeting at the village, members of the tribe said they were in dire need of food and asked the relevant authorities to rescue them from starvation.

"Some of us are surviving on honey and baobab fruits", said one of them who identified himself as Joshua Girtu.

Another resident of the village Samson Nduguru said food shortage is normally critical at the start of the rainy season and that occasionally they have been forced to collect green leaves from trees and boil them for a meal.

According to Eshkesh ward executive officer Deusdedit Baltazar some 239 people in the area need food assistance. He said he had forwarded the request to higher government authorities in Mbulu district.

The situation, he said, had worsened to an extent of impacting on the students' attendance in the few schools located in the remote area.

Food crisis is normal among the Hadzabe hunter-gatherer tribe who are found in several districts around Lake Eyasi. These are Karatu and Ngorongoro in Arusha region, Mbulu in Manyara and Mkalama and Meatu in Singida and Simiyu regions respectively.

Local administrators say although the tiny tribe had traditionally depended on hunting and collecting wild fruits and tubers, they needed food like other people to sustain their lives.

The Hadzabe tribe are believed to be the last remnants of stone age civilization found in Tanzania and the East African region. For generations, they neither cultivated crops nor reared animals. They lived by hunting down wild animals, collecting fruits and digging up wild tubers.

However, the changing times has forced many of them to turn to other types of food consumed by the surrounding communities such as the popular maize meal (ugali) which has to be purchased from shops and markets.

The Hadza or Hadzabe population size is not very clear although some researchers say their number is just under 1,000, of which some 300–400 live as hunter-gatherers, much as their ancestors have for tens of thousands of years. They are among the last hunter-gatherers in the world.