This Land is Our Land: Protection leads to repurchase

Under the ancient baobab tree the celebration begins. The Hadza hunter-gatherers are joined by the District Commissioner of Mbulu, James Kheri, who is officiating the buying back of land that once belonged to the Hadza.

Less than 1000 Hadza still live a traditional, semi nomadic life in their ancestral rangelands in the Yaeda Valley, moving camp according to the availability of water. Some years ago, Yaeda Chini Village allocated land to the Hadza who were seeking to settle more permanently. This land sits on the edge of the award winning Yaeda Valley REDD project area, serving as a buffer for wildlife moving to and from the protected area.

The Hadza chose not to farm the land, preferring to maintain the land in its original, forested condition. Local agriculturists, looking to expand their farming practices, expolited the settled Hadza, who had little knowledge of their land rights and its commercial value, buying the land at prices well below the market value.

Over two years, 137 acres were acquired by agriculturalists who cleared the forest, converting it to low-yield, unsustainable farmland. 

The majority of the local community are actively engaged in protecting their forest areas, earning revenue through the protection of their ancestral forest, the success of which is quantified in carbon terms using a REDD methodology of carbon accounting. However, for the Hadza, a forest means more than just carbon revenue. A forest provides them with food, water, shelter, spiritual connection and forms the foundation of their cultural identity. Without a forest, there can be no Hadza.

After 11 years of implementing the forest protection project, the Hadza were devestated to discover deforestation suddenly occuring on the land that they assumed once belonged to them. They felt compelled to take action to prevent further deforestation in the region. 

In 2021, community members came together beneath the same baobab tree to look for a solution. It was decided that they would formally request to use revenue earned from the sale of the carbon credits, generated by the Yaeda-Eyasi Landscape project, to buy the land back.

A series of village meetings ensued to discuss the use of carbon revenue to buy back the land and to gauge the broader community’s sentiment about the proposal. With collective agreement from the community, a village committee was established and they submitted a formal request to the village government. The village government consulted with the buyers, advising why they wanted to buy back the land. Following extensive discussions, the buyers confirmed that they were ready to relingquish the land as long as they were compensated fairly for it.

The proposal was then escalated to the District government where a comprehensive evaluation of the situation was conducted, including consultations with all of the stakeholders involved, along with the original land buyers and land sellers.  To ensure transparency, the district government meticulously documented the entire process and publicised the proposal, inviting feedback from all stakeholders and community members. With the guidance from the District Government, a final price to buy back the land was agreed upon.

On 8th March 2024, the Hadza community finally repurchased the land, intending to allow the land to naturally regenerate so it can again, one day, support their traditional livelihood and culture.

There are no plans to incorporate this land into the Yaeda-Eyasi Landscape project area for carbon credit generation, and it is not titled within the Certificate of Customary Rights of Occupancy – a document supporting the protection of the forested area to ensure food security for the Hadza who continue to embrace a traditional lifestyle.

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