Friday, November 09, 2007

Some Good News For The Hadzabe...Hopefully

I had a head's-up on this a couple of days ago via friends in Tanzania but I couldn't confirm the story. However, it now appears that Survival International is reporting that the UAE has withdrawn a deal with the Tanzanian government to secure hunting rights in Hadzabe lands. The original deal would have effectively kicked the Hadzabe out of their lands and forcefully ended their traditional way of life. From the Survival International piece:

The withdrawal is a great victory for the Hadza, a small tribe of hunter-gatherers who live in northwest Tanzania. A Hadza representative said today, ‘If it is true that the Arabs are leaving our land then I am very, very happy.’

I know many indigenous rights organizations and several organizations and individuals in Europe who contacted me on this issue were deeply involved and were able to bring world opinion to bear on this injustice. However, there can be no doubt that those of you in the blogosphere who frequently reported on the plight of the Hadza gave this the steam necessary to be noticed by the larger organizations. You should all pat yourself on the back for your efforts!!

This is indeed a great day for the Hadza...however, I have to remain just "optimistic" rather than downright overjoyed (sorry, I've been working too long in federal government where overly optimistic publicity often precedes an actual decision). If my unconfirmed email statement from the UAE safari company is correct, they are none too pleased:

The Eshkesh Safari Company has surrendered the rights it had secured in 2006 to manage and sustainably utilise the Yaeda Chini/ Lake Eyasha region for hunting...a commercially motivated misrepresentation of the company's intentions and activities has been continuously perpetuated by certain interest groups. This has regretfully caused us to review the long term sutsainability of our planned program in the entire region resulting in our reluctant withdrawal.

Of course, they use all the appropriate buzzwords regarding their operation ("sustainable", "manage") and accusingly invoke some kind of "special interest" conspiracy on the part of those who stood up for Hadzabe rights. And there's the usual hand-wringing over how the poor people of the area are now going to suffer because the company can't bring hunters into the area:

This decision was taken with great reluctance as the withdrawal meant ending numerous human welfare, and wildlife sustainability programs that had been created and initiated following extensive and ongoing consultation with all villages - including Hadzabe representatives - in the region. The Eshkesh Safari Company had commenced extensive regeneration and wildlife protection programs in order to revive the areas wildlife that has been heavily depleted by poachers. The intention was not to initiate hunting trips in the region for several years in order to return animal stocks to sustainable levels.

Their efforts at restoring game populations may indeed be the case but I find it exceedingly disingenuous that these arguments are coming out now...they certainly weren't being discussed when all this first came to light. Further, given a friend's inside perspective on how the UAE operates in general, I remain highly doubtful that the original intent of the deal was anything more than what it seemed to all of us: a safari "playground" for rich UAE princes.

Again, I have not confirmed the source of this email but I suspect it to be a valid statement from the company. There is one further issue still outstanding that tempers my joy at the news. Apparently several of the Hadzabe are still under arrest for daring to protest the original deal. I am hoping to provide positive news on that front sometime soon, but we'll still have to wait and see...


ascotti said...

hey chris
what have you been up to? haven't talked to you in a while, but I did want to say "thanks" for putting in a good word for me over at Eagle Lake. I intend to volunteer out there during break. Would you mind telling me how things with your grad student at UC Davis are going? To refresh your memory, he or she is intent on going to Africa for some field work...thanks


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