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Abu Dhabi royal family pulls out of Tanzania project

Adam Ihucha  Jun 23, 2008

ARUSHA, Tanzania ((eTN) - An Arab royal family has announced its plan to shelve turning the Yaeda Valley paradise in Northern Tanzania into tourist hunting Babel, after the resistance became irrepressible, thanks to a few Hadzabe activists, local and foreign media.

Yaeda Valley, within the vast Eyasi escarpment near the world's eight wonders of Ngorongoro Crater, is the remaining home of a surviving relic of the hunter-gatherers on the planet, Hadzabe Bushmen.

Tanzania UAE Hunting Safari Ltd, a company acting on behalf of Abu Dhabi royal family, pulled out of a deal sealed three years ago, between them and the Mbulu district authority to hunt wildlife in 2,267 square kilometers of remote bush in the Yaeda Chini territory.

"We are faded up by the propaganda by a few people backed by the local and foreign media against the royal family," the local representative of the firm, Finehas Bwire declared here this week.

"To suggest or imply that our firm operations included restricting or preventing Hadzabe tribesmen from continuing their traditional hunting practices is wrong- traditional hunting practices are subject only to Tanzanian law," he lamented.

Bwire added: "However, 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 sustainability of our planned program in the entire region resulting to our reluctant withdrawal."

Before being granted its concession, UAE Safaris was due to assist in the economic development of the Yaeda Chini Valley, which borders Lake Eyasi.

It was to build a secondary school, health clinic and roads to link the Hadzabe with Mbulu, the nearest town. The hunting firm was also to pay 50 percent of the running costs of the school as long as it was granted a hunting concession in Yaeda Chini.

The company, which had only got as far as building a base camp in Yaeda Chini, also promised a number of conservation initiatives, including providing 4x4 vehicles for anti-poaching patrols and water boreholes to attract more wildlife to Yaeda Chini, an animal migratory route where wildlife is under threat from poaching.

Speaking at the similar function, the Mbulu District Commissioner Elias Goroi expressed his disbelief over the move taken by Abu Dhabi's royal family of pulling out of the Yaeda Chini Valley project. "It's very unfortunate indeed that now we have lost a potential investor simply because of negative attitude of some people who failed to comprehend the idea behind the investor," Goroi noted.

Fear of indigenous right activists
With their feeble little bodies, less than effective hunting arrows, the nearly 500 Hadzabe populations clearly would have been no match to the guns totting, money laden Arabian Hunting Corporation.

Indigenous right activists feared that if a hunting concession was granted to the company then the 500-estimated Hadzabe hunter-gatherers of Yaeda Chini would have been criminalized as poachers and driven off land their ancestors have lived on for 10,000 years.

The Hadzabe, who live in small groups and are believed to number less than 1,000 in total in Tanzania, are the closest cultural relatives to the San (Bushmen) of the Kalahari in Botswana.

The company, UAE Safaris Ltd, complained that it had been "misrepresented" by unspecified Hadzabe interest groups.

A great victory
For many, the end of the deal is a great victory for the Hadzabe, because it sends a clear message that hunter-gatherer people will not take threats to their ancestral land lying down.

"The Hadzabe's right of perpetuating their traditional way of life should not be taken for granted…I'm happy that we have successfully managed to protect this right," said a prominent Lawyer, Mustafa Akunaay.

The deal between the Mbulu District Authority and Tanzania UAE Safaris Ltd, leased nearly 2,500 square miles of this sprawling, yellow-green valley near the storied Serengeti Plain to members of the royal family, who chose it after a helicopter tour.

Hadzabe endangered tribe
Recently, social scientists expressed fears that the Hadzabe would become extinct in few years time as a result of pressure on their habitat.

The Hadzabe occupy a far smaller territory to the south of Ngorongoro, in the escarpments of the Rift Valley and the valleys around Lake Eyasi.

The area is a home of a wide array of wildlife and of a range of flora that includes the magnificent baobab trees of Africa, which host bees from which the Hadzabe collect honey.

The Hadzabe's traditional way of life, according to social scientists, has come under pressure to adapt to modern ways of living.

According to a just-concluded research by Oxfam, the Hadzabe, who survive on fruit-gathering and hunting wild animals for food face extinction as their habitats, have been converted into conservation areas and agricultural land. ''The situation is very critical for the tribe, whose population does not exceed 3,000,'' stated the Oxfam report, which circulated to stakeholders in Arusha recently. ''The community is virtually under threat from commercial extinction of the resources under their jurisdiction, which are also their home and the basis of their livelihood, has been converted into farms and conservation areas.”

The researchers, however, blame the situation on poor government policies, which they said favor conservation of huge chunks of land for wildlife hunting at the expense of indigenous people.

''We in turn owe groups like the Hadzabe the chance to perpetuate their way of life, not simply because they add to the cultural and technological diversity of the planet, but because their lifestyle, in its ancient simplicity, has a huge amount to teach us about the technological, environmental and spiritual arts of sustainability in our all-consuming age,'' the researchers observed.

Abu Dhabi royal family pulls out of Tanzania project
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