HADZABE TRIBE FACED WITH FAMINE
Story by: By Valentine Marc Nkwame (Arusha Times)
Story by: By Valentine Marc Nkwame (Arusha Times)
Hadzabe Bushmen who live within the Yaeda-Chini valley in Mbulu district are facing an acute shortage of food. Two of them died recently from what is believed to be famine related. Five children were also seriously sick but amid the worsening situation, Mbulu officials are alleged to have banned church groups from sending food aid to the Bushmen.
"It seems like the entire Yaeda valley is now out of bounds to everybody. You cannot be allowed to go down there without permission. We wonder if it is part of Tanzania or not," said Mandege Naftal Jonga, a Hadza activist who resides in the valley.
When journalists went down the valley last week, the Yaeda Chini acting ward executive, Laurent Bainiti tried to refuse them entry. "I cannot allow you to venture into this valley without permission from the District Commissioner," he said and ordered them back.
But the scribes reminded the officer that under the current constitution, Tanzanians are allowed to go practically everywhere in the country. Subsequently, the ward leader watched helplessly as the press vehicle sped onto the Yaeda jungle where there have been reports of Bushmen dying.
At Sanola area, deep in the Yaeda Jungle a group of Bushmen mostly women could be seen gathered under huge baobab tree, nursing about five sick children with what seemed to be high fever. The children were lying in the shade, covered with animal hides.
An old Hadza lady, Tale Mudendee said they were also grieving because two old men had died within in the last few weeks; she named them as Mbogosh and Endeku both being brothers from the Washema clan.
"We are starving, all the animals have disappeared and we Hadzabe only feed on meat." Kriti Gimbi an old man who was making arrows from sticks explained through an interpreter. His wife, Ntale Nzale was keeping a tin of maize flour in their grass hut.
"It is for children, we mix it with water and they drink it. At least we force them to drink it because they also do not like the 'Swahili' food. The adults here thrive on wild berries and roots to stay alive but now a strange sickness is sweeping the valley, we all going to die!" she said.
Reverend John Magafu and Mrs. Martha Togoro, both from the Christian Council of Tanzania who visited the valley recently, gave the Hadzabe Tsh. 100,000 to buy some food with. The problem however is that, the Bushmen prefer eating wild roots and wild animals meat.
"We cannot buy goats or other 'domestic animals' because their meat is all likely to contain chemicals," said another Hadza elder.
The Haydom Lutheran hospital used to conduct outreach health services for the Bushmen, including rescuing them from hunger during famine, why have they forsaken them now?
"There is a cold war going on here, local non-government organizations and religious groups have been barred from sending food and medication to the Hadzabe." claimed Jonga who is also a local researcher.
Dr. Olsen of Haydom Hospital could not be found for comment as he was away in Arusha to attend some official matters.
"No way, nobody has barred church groups from taking care of the Hadzabe," refuted Philip Marmo, the parliamentary representative of Mbulu when asked about the issue over the phone.
Marmo who is also the State Minister in charge of Good Governance, however admitted that, indeed there was famine in Yaeda and the Bushmen were dying from it. "I am trying to find a solution, in fact I also went down the valley last week,." he said.
Earlier, the Mbulu District Executive Director, Naijaijai Koila had thrown journalists out of his office saying they had gone there without 'appointment.' The scribes had gone to the DED office to get his views on the matter. The District Commissioner could not be found either.
Bishop Zebedayo Daudi of Mbulu Lutheran Diocese is aware of the Bushmen plight. "The trouble is that, the valley has been invaded by other tribes such as the Datoga (Barbaig) the Nyaisanzu and Iraqw, all of whom sometimes acts as Bushmen in order to benefit from food aid," he revealed.
"Even when you managed to sneak in some food to the Hadzabe, it is likely to fall into the wrong hands because the other tribal people down the valley dress and look like the Bushmen," he said.
Some church and other organization leaders who preferred anonymity admitted that it was no longer easy to go down the valley as one must undergo long process of getting permission. "Suffice to say that, you may as well bring along a passport, Yaeda is now a different state altogether."
Observers in Mbulu feel the cold war which seems to be brewing between Mbulu District officials and activists who fight to protect the great Yaeda-Chini valley against the invasion of an Arab hunting company which wants to assume territorial rights of the vast Eyasi escarpments and the corresponding valley, is what makes the local officials suspect all people who go down the area.
As it happens, the Hadzabe Bushmen are now the unwitting pawns in the battle.
The current Hadzabe population is less than 2000 and drastically falling. "There are about 1800 Bushmen living in Yaeda at the moment." said Mandege Naftal Jonga, an educated Hadzabe who both lives and conducts researchin the valley.
According to Jonga, this time 30 years ago, the bushmen population at Yaeda was more than 5000 but since then about 3200 Hadzabe people have disappeared mostly through untimely deaths brought about by epidemics such as drought and diseases.
With over 3200 Bushmen dying in a period of 30 years, according to the researcher, it all boils down to an average of 106 Hadzabe people dying every year.
a. NI jambo la kusikitisha kuwa Philip Marmo na serikali ya CCM wanaenda nyanda za juu na kuimba nyimbo kuwa kuna chakula cha ziada wakati waTanzania wenzetu wanakufa kwa njaa.
b. Ni jambo la aibu kuwa wakati Rais anazunguka dunia nzima kuitangaza Tanzania na kuomba misaada, tunashindwa kuhakikisha watu chini ya 10000 wanapata chakula cha kutosha.
c. Inasikitisha kuwa Taifa letu halina wabunifu wa utatuzi wa matatizo kiasi kwamba wanashindwa kubuni mikakati ya kushughulikia tatizo la Wahadzabe.
d. Tunafahamu kuwa eneo hilo la Wahadzabe linatakiwa na Mwindaji wa kiarabu na inawezekana juhudi za kutowapatia chakula cha kutosha ni jitihada za wazi za kupunguza idadi ya watu maeneo hayo ili itakapofika wakati wa kuwahamisha kwa nguvu iwe Rahisi. Tunakumbuka vizuri yaliyotoka kule Namibia kwenye mazingira kama haya haya.
e. Dr. Siyame (rafiki yangu tangu tukiwa Meta Mbeya)inasikitisha kuwa hadi hivi sasa hajafanya jitihada za kushughulikia janga hilo. Hivi hadi watu wangapi wafe ndio viongozi wetu wataona ni jambo la muhimu. Imekuwaje Waziri Mkuu aende kupiga soga kwenye mikoa iliyojaa chakula bwelele na anashindwa kutumia angalau siku moja kwenda kwa Wahadzabe? Hii ni aibu.
f. Kitendo cha serikali kufuatilia kila mtu anayeingia huko ni kitendo cha uvunjaji mkubwa wa Katiba, kwani Mtanzania anayo haki ya kwenda mahali popote katika nchi yake, na mawasiliano yake kutokuingiliwa kwa namna yoyote pasipo sababu ya msingi. Serikali iache kuogopa kivuli chake.