described how the Hadza's subsistence strategies are
closely coupled to their woodland-savannah ecology, while
also being guided by distinctive cultural ethos. James
Woodburn notes the importance of sharing, minimal
politics, egalitarianism, and an intimacy to social
relations wherein most individuals act towards others like
kin. Anthropologists also note how Hadza residential
groups, or camps, often break apart and re-assemble in
order to diffuse social tensions.
Being mobile is an
essential part of Hadza culture: both as a way to find
food and as a way to peaceably regulate social
For these reasons, our
efforts to provide needed medicine and medical education
to the Hadza also strive to be as mobile as possible.
The Hadza live in a woodland habitat dominated by Acacia, Commiphora, and Adansonia digitata (Baobab) trees. The woodlands of Hadza country are typically hilly and rocky. Natural springs and seasonal rivers intersperse their range. On the edges of Lake Eyasi and the Yaeda Valley, rocky hills give way to sandy alluvial plains. The area can be quite hot, dry, and windy during the dry season (June-Oct) but is lush and green during the rainy periods.
Hadza typically live in
camps with 20-40 residents. On any given day, camp members
decide where and how to forage by closely observing their
country, discussing their observations with other camp
members, and by drawing upon their expert knowledge of the
land. Though the Hadza recognize five general regions
within their country (Mangola, Han!abi, Tli’ika, Sipunga,
and Dunduiya), there are no land-holding territorial
divisions between Hadza groups.
Acacia and Commiphera flowers are important sources
of nectar for the African honey bee, Apis melliferra,
which produces large stores of wild honey, a crucial food
in the Hadza diet. Baobab trees contain the largest hives,
some of which have been harvested repeatedly by the Hadza
for hundreds of years. In addition to containing hives of
wild honey, baobab trees produce a fruit rich in
nutrients, green leaves that are eaten in times of hunger,
and several tree parts used as medicine.
As with the Baobab, the Hadza
are stewards of an exceptional array of plants and animals
in their environment. They are masters at finding widely
dispersed sources of food, medicine, and water, which they
have sustainably harvested for countless generations. The
most important wild foods in the Hadza diet are large and
small game, baobab, berries, several types of wild honey,
About 500 Hadza continue to rely on hunting and gathering for the majority of their diet, and perhaps 300 almost exclusively. Even though complaints of hunger and requests for food are heard in Hadza society, these are normal features of a society that depends on food sharing. Many Hadza mention that they believe foraging for wild foods is a fulfilling avenue to a better diet than either farming or cattle-raising would enable.
They truly enjoy and
cherish the personal freedom afforded by living in small,
mobile, and intimate camps. Many Hadza overtly reject the
noise, crowds, dangers, and discrimination that life in
neighboring villages would entail.
into the Hadza region, as well as rapid population growth
of neighboring groups has meant that the Hadza have lost
access to many of their most important foraging lands.
The Hadza have little voice in the planning or regulation of regional land use, and their needs are often overshadowed by the masses that follow a more typical farming or cattle-raising way of life. The Hadza realize they live in this rapidly changing world, which presents them with unique opportunities and special challenges.
Since the 1960's, many
attempts to settle and "develop" the Hadza have been made.
The failures of these attempts make the Hadza weary of new
proposals to "help the Hadza".
Our team of
anthropologists and local health workers has built up a
large store of mutual trust, knowledge, and friendship
with the Hadza, which allows us to tailor our health
initiatives to their particular needs and the concerns of
individuals. Our experience also enables us to effectively
cooperate with other groups concerned with Hadza survival.