Land grabbing gets worrisome
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analysis
Typography

ENCROACHMENT into government forests or land belonging to institutions is rampant these days. Some miscreants in urban centres encroach into school land, green belts, church or mosque property and road reserve areas.

Others grab land along the sea shore.

A few years ago it was reported in the press that invaders encroached into a conserved government forest near Kipamba-Munguli Village 120 kilometres north east of the municipality of Singida.

This was quite a smarting headache for the government.

It was this kind of unacceptable behaviour which prompted the government to form the crack “Operation Tokomeza.

” The outfit was given clear-cut instructions to make sure that all conserved land was free from invaders who included poachers who decimated wildlife.

Unfortunately, Operation Tokomeza operatives, whose team was mainly made up of military soldiers, members of the Police Force and wildlife management officers, took their job rather overzealously and trod on raw nerves.

They were accused for attacking innocent villagers and, in some cases, rounding up cattle.

They were also believed to torture, rape and even kill some of their victims.

The public outcry that followed was overwhelming. But the nation was also told that invaders had occupied a natural forest that is home to Hadzabe people in Singida Region.

The invaders, were ordered by Mkalama District Commissioner Edward ole Lenga to move out of the forest immediately.

The DC ordered the invaders to move out of the conserved forest voluntarily short of which they would be arrested and prosecuted over illegal occupation of a conserved area.

The Hadzabe who still live in this forest have a lifestyle that is akin to that of wildlife.

Mr Lenga said that the government will not tolerate seeing the invaders felling trees and burning the forest to clear patches of land for agriculture and livestock rearing.

This is bad news for the Hadzabe who subsist on wild fruits, tubers, leaves, honey and meat.

The Hadzabe are increasingly experiencing shortage of food due to forest clearing, especially the felling of baobab trees.

The invaders have cleared huge tracts of the forest intent on establishing farms, creating pastureland and building homes.

The indigenous Tanzanians who live in Yaeda valley in Mbulu District also face possible starvation because the baobab trees on whose fruits and seeds they subsist are disappearing mainly due to old age and forest clearing.

These too are Hadzabe people.

Baobabs are trees that normally have huge trunks and are resistant even to the harshest of droughts.

The trees also store drinkable water in their trunks. The Hadzabe who live in Yaeda valley have been alarmed by the gradual disappearance of these important trees.

As if this threat is not bad enough, some invaders have cleared huge tracts of the forest intent on establishing farms, creating pastureland and building homes.

In the eyes of the now few Hadzabe diehards, the invaders are vermin.

The Hadzabe, who are also known as Tindiga, possess a thrilling ‘click’ language and uncanny hunting skills. They use bows and arrows in hunting.

While some families live in cave-like holes inside baobab tree trunks, others live in “burrows” underground or in crude thatched huts.

Of course, it is on record that efforts to improve the living standards of the Hadzabe in yesteryears failed.

In one instance, a group of Hadzabe people who were encouraged to live in a modern house near their forest refused to eat and some nearly died of starvation.

Their refusal to eat what did not look like food to them (rice and ugali) baffled the officials who were detailed to make the experiment.

One Hadzabe man who ate ugali contracted an infection and died.

Frightened, the remaining Hadzabe sneaked back into the forest.

They continued gathering wild fruits, roots and tubers and hunting baboons, monkeys, antelopes and other animals with bows and arrows.

And when a primary school was introduced in their locality the few pupils who were enrolled disappeared after a few days.

But a lot of water must have gone down the bridge since those years. Some cultural changes must have sprouted in the Hadzabe community bringing them closer to modernity.

Although Hadzabe men still hunt, not all look wild or vicious.

The Hadzabe are believed to have been living in the remote Yaeda valley for almost 100,000 years relying on the baobab trees for both food and shelter.

Some historians consider them to be the last hunter gatherer society left in Africa, their lifestyle unchanged for millennia.

Some of the Hadzabe now take kindly to visitors including tourists. They do not forage in the forest in the nude anymore as some indigenous tribesmen do in India, the Amazon Forest, Indonesia or the Kalahari Desert in Namibia.

The Hadzabe are opportunist hunters.

Operating solo, they eat most animals, except reptiles. And they are lovers of honey. They brave huge swarms of bees to steal combs from high up in baobab trees.

The Hadzabe never grow any food or cash crops.

While the Hadzabe like to live alone, they periodically come across other different people in the bush.

They trade tobacco in return for animal skins. They are a musical people, enjoying song and dance as a core part of their lives.

Already, a few Hadzabe men wear shorts and their women appear in cotton skirts. Some speak crude Kiswahili but manage to get the message across. They frequently meet tourists in the forest during their hunting forays and interact with them cordially.

Continual encroachment by people originating from as far afield as Mwanza, Shinyanga and Singida, whose activities include crop cultivation and raising large herds of cattle has taken a huge toll on vegetation, especially on the baobabs, on Hadzabe territory. This means the livelihood of the Hadzabe is under threat.

Their population is likely to shrink further.

So it is high time another attempt to usher in a modicum of civilisation was made.

They need schools, dispensaries, clean drinkable water and other critical needs.

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