How Forest Conservation Meets Our Basic Needs

Discussing forest conservation with the Hadza

We sit under an Acacia tree – an Acacia Tortillis to be precise, thanks to its provision of one of our basic needs, shade from the midday African sun. And since our entire approach depends on effective forest conservation, we can be precise! It is the latter stages of the dry season in Yaeda Valley, and Marc Baker and I have come to listen to the Hadza of Domanga Village. Just to listen. Our company strategic planning documents call this a “quality assurance” visit, but really we are here to simply spend some time with the communities on which our business of forest conservation, and the good management of community forest resources, depend.

If you have never spent time with Hunter-Gatherers (sometimes generically referred to as “Bushmen”), then you should plan to. Their perspective on the world is revealing, baffling and liberating in equal measure, depending on where you come from of course. Their lifestyle represents the way humans have existed for over 50,000 years, and our friends in the Yaeda Valley have been using the woodlands, plains and hills around here for at least 30,000 years. The world-view that this engenders is remarkable, and profoundly different from that of a person who lives in a pastoral (cattle-herding) or agricultural (that means the rest of us) society.

Today we are discussing the need for a reliable water source, in the village, and how to prevent destructive incursions of cattle-herders into the Hadza’s traditional forest area which often results in deforestation. A missionary organization visited recently and have told the community that they are going to dig a borehole in the village. Another charitable organization is working with the village government to build a medical dispensary, dig another borehole and construct a new village office. All admirable projects, but did the village or the Hadza request this assistance? And what do these organisations expect from their largesse? Both of these questions asked by our Hadza friends, not us.

Nonetheless all agree that water would be great, after all it’s another basic human need, just like the Acacia shade – let these people dig and if it costs the community nothing, all to the better. Here we can add something to the discussion. Another village, in which we also work, recently had a water pipe laid down to bring water for the first time. The pipe originated from yet another neighbouring village, and the water was provided for human use only, since there is a large cattle population in the area. Within one year the pastoralist community in this village had requested permission to siphon off water from the pipe for their calves, since it was a dry year. This request was granted, but less than a year later two or three thousand cows of all ages crowd the water source, rendering the nearby environment barren – another successful “development” project.

Unlike this ill-thought out and poorly executed community development project, our work relies on the protection and long-term management of the forested area reserved for the traditional use of the Hadza, an area that was defined and designated by community, village, National Government and Presidential decree. It is a stunning, wildlife-rich ridge of open Acacia-Baobab woodland, thickly vegetated valleys and dramatic rocky outcrops. While time travel is not yet possible, an hour spent at sunset atop one of these inselbergs, watching the sun set over this ancient landscape is akin to travelling 50,000 years back in time, and satisfies one of our very basic human needs.

Blog written by Carbon Tanzania’s founder Jo Anderson


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