The Hadza are an ancient hunter-gatherer ethnic group relying on natural environment to sustain their traditional lifestyle of gathering wild fruits and tubers.
Conservation of the natural forest is done by the indigenous Hadza communities of the Yaeda valley in partnership with Carbon Tanzania through the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD)project implemented in three villages namely, Mongo Wa Mono,Domanga and YeadaChini. The project prevents 22,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually from being emitted and prevents 18,700 trees from being cut down per year.
Carbon Tanzania, a company devoted to producing carbon offsets through natural forest conservation is supported by The Nature Conservancy (TNC). The company also collaborates with the Dorobo Fund and Ujamaa Community Resource Team (UCRT).
Carbon Tanzania CEO, Marc Baker said the prize worth US $ 10,000 to the project will be presented to two representatives of the Hadza community in New York city in November 24th 2019, the event which coincides with the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly. This year’s Equator Prize winner will join a network of 223 communities from 78 countries that have received the prize since its inception in 2002.
The Equator Prize is one of the United Nation’s most prestigious awards for environmental protection and climate resilience. It is awarded biennially to projects that show outstanding community efforts to reduce poverty through the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.
Baker said with the support from the Nature Conservancy and partners, the Hadza were able to secure the Certificate of Customary Right of Occupancy (CCRO) in 2011. The CCRO document was the first to be given to an indigenous group in the country. The Yaeda valley REDD project covers 32,000 hectares.
“The communities have in place governance structures, by-laws and land use plans that helps to protect their habitat forest land in order to create carbon credits sold to companies and individuals to offset their carbon impacts”, Baker noted adding thatcommunity members have also been trained to patrol and report any land use change or poaching activities which contribute to tackling illegal land intrusion.
A total of 42 community members have benefited from the project as secured full time employment after being trained on wildlife monitoring and forest protection. Each of the forest rangers earn 80,000/- per month which is paid by Carbon Tanzania.
According to Baker, in five years since the project began to sell carbon credits, over US $ 300,000 has been channeled to the protection activities and spent on benefits for people within the project area. The villagers spend monies generated from selling carbon credits to buy food as well as carter for Hadza school children needs and villager’s health services.
Baker added: “This year alone, with support from carbon revenue, 12 community members have been sent to training as forest rangers, 25 students received educational support and 23 individuals provided with medical treatment. We also pay a team of health care providers from Manyara regional hospital to conduct free clinic to test and treat Tuberculosis (TB), common eye disorders and other common diseases. The clinics are conducted twice a year”.
EzekielSalimu, the village game scout and chairman of the education board said: “I am going to represent my community in New York City later this month as we receive the award. We have been honoured for preserving our natural forests. We are thankful to Carbon Tanzania for the environment awareness education they are giving us andfunds we receive for not cutting trees and turning the soil”.
Salimu attributed the improvement of the forest conservation area with efforts and interventions from Carbon Tanzania that includes environmental awareness education to the villagers.
Domanga village game scouts coordinator, Pili Mahiasaid the Hadza people considers the REDD project as an additional effort to their environment preservation efforts since they were used to keep the forest to sustain their traditional lifestyle of gathering fruits and hunting. Domanga has a population of 1,609 as per the 2012 national census.
YaedaChiniWard Councillor, Bryson Magombe said that previously it was difficult for the villagers to understand the concept of selling carbon offsets, but they are now well-informed since they are also benefiting from the project.
He said they initially started working with the Dorobo Fund and UCRT before Carbon Tanzania came in 2010 and helped the Hadza people to secure title deed for their land in 2011where after the land use plan and by-laws were formed. He said the presence of land use plan and the by-laws have largely contributed to successful preservation of the natural forest as the villagers have specific areas for housing, agriculture and grazing.
“The monies we get are spent on improvement of social services especially health and education, but we also use part of it to purchase food for the households. A certain amount of the carbon credit funds is also given to the government at village, ward and district level”, said Magombe.
Carbon Tanzania project manager for Yaeda valley, Isack Bryson said the random patrols conducted by village scouts and presence of the by-laws have helped to improve the preserved forest. Bryson added that villagers violating the by-laws by grazing in the forest area are punished accordingly. Those illegally grazing in the forest are fined to pay 500,000/- while the penalty for cutting a tree is 50,000/-.
Grazing in the preserved forest is allowed between July and December while from January to June the villagers are required to feed their animals at the specific grazing land.
TNC Conservation Coordinator, AlphonceMallya said: “We are providing technical support to Carbon Tanzania, we also help in providing satellite imagery that assist in analyzing forest cover change in the project area”.
Commenting on the award, Mallya said it will help to boost recognition of the project internationally as well as the trust of the villagers.
“We are grateful for the award. It has been a journey, it was not easy for the villagers to understand the concept of carbon trade. But now they are well informed about it and have already started to benefit with it financially”, said Mallya.