“Now that we own our land we can protect it.”

UN Development Programme
4 min readNov 21, 2019


©UNDP Equator Initiative/Tasha Goldberg

The Hadzabe people of northern Tanzania are one of the world’s oldest communities. Living at the base of the Rift Valley, believed to be the origin of human species, the Hadzabe live as they always have.

For tens of thousands of years, the Hadzabe have hunted and gathered food in their forests. There has never been a single account of famine.

BAGAYO PETRO, Hadzabe, Yaeda Valley, Tanzania

©UNDP Equator Initiative/Tasha Goldberg

“When I wake up in the morning, I will go to hunt. But in the same area that I go to hunt, if I do not find meat, I can get honey. If I don’t get honey, I can get fruit. And at the end of the day I can always bring baobob back to my family.”

As one of the 2019 winners of the UNDP Equator Prize, which recognizes community efforts to reduce poverty through the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, the Hadzabe are leaders in climate financing.

The community is the very first in Tanzania to receive a Certificate of Customary Right of Occupancy over the Yaeda Valley. This gives them standing before Tanzania courts.

Building on this landmark victory, the Hadzabe partnered with Carbon Tanzania to sell credits to the voluntary carbon market. This partnership has earned the Hadzabe US$300,000 to date, and the revenue is paying the salaries of 40 wildlife scouts and supporting other community needs. This enables the Hadzabe to continue to live their traditional lifestyle, protect their forests, and help slow climate change — for the benefit of everyone!

PILI GOODO, Hadzabe, Yaeda Valley, Tanzania

©UNDP Equator Initiative/Tasha Goldberg

Before land rights, we did not understand what it meant ….. now we understand ownership as a right. Now that we own our land, we can protect it.

The Hadzabe tribe has safeguarded more than 20,000 hectares through a historic land tenure campaign coupled with an innovative carbon offset scheme, effective community monitoring, and inclusive governance.

Masterfully combining traditional knowledge, modern technology and innovative finance the Hadza’s Yaeda Valley Project has recorded over 105,000 verified emissions reductions from 2010 to 2017.

EZEKIEL PHILIPO, Hadzabe, Yaeda Valley, Tanzania

©UNDP Equator Initiative/Tasha Goldberg

“Everything I need I find in my land.”

Ezekiel can hunt an animal at great distances with his home-made bow and arrows, without using binoculars or anything other than his eyes, arms, instinct and traditional knowledge. For the first time in his life, Ezekiel travelled outside Tanzania to receive a prestigious prize. Of course, he brought his bow and arrows with him. A Hadzabe “never leaves his bow,” he said.

On 24 September, at the Equator Prize Award Ceremony in New York, Ezekiel accepted the prize, and US$10,000, on behalf of his people. At the high-level event, an audience of 1,500 including leading thinkers, policymakers, celebrities and business and civil society leaders celebrated 22 Equator Prize winning communities from all over the world.

©UNDP Equator Initiative/Hannah Wilson

The Yaeda Valley Project was recognized in the category of nature-aligned, low-carbon economies.

The Hadzabe manage their lands and forests through traditional practices, modern technology and satellite information. Based on current and historic satellite imagery of deforestation, Carbon Tanzania, a partner of the Hadzabe, predicts where deforestation would occur without the Hadazbe’s management. Whenever deforestation is avoided, and forests that were projected to be cleared are, in fact, still standing, verified carbon units are generated. These units are sold to people and companies who want to offset their carbon footprint. That revenue is then directly transferred to communities, and rewards them for keeping the forest standing.

©The Yaeda Valley Project

Deforestation in Hadzabe territory is occurring at 20 times slower than in the wider region, a true testament of success. Scientific studies have shown increases in critical wildlife populations in Yaeda over the last three years. More than 18,000 trees are saved from logging every year.

The Yaeda Valley project is now being replicated. Similar efforts with Carbon Tanzania are underway in the southern part of the Tarangire-Manyara region in the East African Rift Valley, with the Masai in Makame Wildlife Management Area, the biggest community managed conservation area in Tanzania at 450,000 hectares; and the chimpanzee-rich Ntakata Mountains project in western Tanzania. These may generate nearly 1.5 million tonnes of verified emission reductions every year.

The Equator Prize identifies solutions that work, and that are replicable or scalable. The Hadzabe’s way of marrying traditional practice with modern climate financing instruments is just that: A model that can be applied elsewhere.

©UNDP Equator Initiative/Tasha Goldberg

Click here for a short story on the Hadza’s Yaeda Valley Project or here for the full story.

Authors: Tasha Goldberg, Anna Giulia Medri, Martin Sommerschuh; Photos: Tasha Goldberg, Hannah Wilson, The Yaeda Valley Project