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Photo: Roshni Lodhia/Carbon Tanzania.
Hadza scout Ezekiel Phillipo overlooking Tanzania’s Yaeda Valley.

With a “carbon offset,” polluters pay to reduce or remove emissions of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases in one place in order to compensate for emissions made elsewhere. Even individuals may pursue offsets: for example, because their airplane travel increases global warming. My friend sends money to tree-planting organizations when she flies. Corporations do this on a larger scale. But offsets are an imperfect tool.

Fred Pearce writes at YaleEnvironment360, “Carbon offsets have been criticized for failing to provide carbon savings and ignoring the needs of local communities. But in Tanzania, hunter-gatherer tribes are earning a good return for their carbon credits and protecting their forests from poachers and encroaching agriculture.

“Deep in the Rift Valley of East Africa,” he continues, “close to some of the most ancient human remains ever unearthed, one of the continent’s last hunter-gatherer tribes is embracing 21st -century environmentalism. The Hadza people, often called ‘the last archers of Africa,’ are selling carbon credits generated from conserving their forests and using the revenues to employ their youths as scouts to keep forest destroyers away.

“Starting this March, some 1,300 Hadza and members of the cattle-herding tribes with whom they share the Yaeda Valley of northern Tanzania, began receiving the first payments of what will be nearly half a million dollars annually from a local social enterprise, Carbon Tanzania, for protecting woodland hunting and grazing grounds across an area larger than New York City.

“The project will radically extend an existing decade-old carbon-offsetting initiative on Hadza land north to the edge of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, one of Africa’s most iconic wildlife havens. But, unlike the Ngorongoro reserve, which was in part created by expelling local people, this project will embrace the skills of the hunting Hadza as custodians of the forests. …

“The locals are enthusiastic. They say the existing project helps them push back against outsiders keen to grab land for farming.

‘We are seeing a steady increase of some animal species like elephants passing through and in forest growth compared to the beginning,’ says Christopher Shija, a scout recruited from Jobaj village.

“Moshi Isa, another scout who is from Mongo wa Mono village, notes, ‘The carbon project has strengthened our rights. And increased forest density is sustaining our hunting and gathering life.’

“Foreign experts familiar with the checkered history of carbon offsetting agree. Carbon offset projects based on forest conservation are often criticized for failing to provide real carbon savings and simply shifting deforestation elsewhere; for riding roughshod over local forest communities; and for allowing Western companies to put off cutting their emissions.

“In Tanzania, most such projects have been ‘largely unconcerned’ with the wellbeing of the local communities whose lands host them, according to Sebastién Jodoin, an environmental and land-rights lawyer from McGill University in Montreal. But of those he analyzed, the Yaeda Valley project was ‘the sole and important exception … designed and implemented in a manner that recognized the traditional rights and knowledge held by Indigenous Peoples.’

“Without the projects, ‘the Hadza would really be on the brink. With it, they are in a more secure position than they have been for decades,’ says Fred Nelson, CEO of Maliasili, an organization that supports community conservation projects across Africa. It is ‘probably the best such project in Africa.’

“The Hadza have lived in northern Tanzania for at least 40,000 years. Their ancient ways of living off the land have become a magnet for researchers ranging from anthropologists to those studying healthy eating. Linguists are intrigued by their ‘click’ language, which is spoken nowhere else.

“Their land is a patchwork of wet grasslands and craggy hills covered in acacia and water-holding baobab trees. It harbors leopards, lions, gazelles, giraffes, antelopes, wild dogs, and Cape buffalo. The Hadza harvest wild fruits, tubers, honey, natural medicines, and bush meat, says Mosh. …

“But these territories have long been under threat. The Hadza have lost more than three-quarters of their traditional lands in the past half-century. Pastoralists bring their livestock onto the grasslands, especially in the dry season, and farmers clear forests to plow.

“ ‘Shifting agriculture is the primary driver of deforestation in the region, as in much of Tanzania,’ says Jo Anderson, the co-founder and director of Carbon Tanzania. …

“In the past, invasions have often been officially encouraged, says Anderson. Both in British colonial times and since the country’s independence in 1961, the nomadic ways of the Hadza were regarded by urban elites as an embarrassing cultural leftover. In the 1970s, they were subjected to a national policy of enforced settlement known as ‘villagization.’ In 2007, the government announced plans to lease most of the Yaeda Valley to a hunting safari company from the United Arab Emirates.

“But the tide has turned. Unexpected heroes in the story have been three American brothers — Daudi, Mike, and Thad Peterson. Raised in Tanzania, they had operated an early ecotourism business, Dorobo Safaris, before, in the 1990s, setting up and funding the Ujamaa Community Resource Team (UCRT), an NGO helping villagers and Indigenous groups using Tanzanian land laws to secure legal title to their territories.

“The UCRT’s Indigenous activists successfully campaigned against the planned Arab takeover of the Yaeda Valley. And in 2011 they secured title to about 50,000 acres, later expanded to 84,000 acres, of the Hadza’s ancestral lands, giving them the legal right to rebuff encroachers.

“The rights also brought responsibilities, and the UCRT then helped the Hadza, in consort with their pastoralist neighbors, to draw up land-use plans required by the Tanzanian government as a condition of title, zoning the territories for farms, housing, pastures, meeting grounds, cattle enclosures, water collection, and hunting grounds and setting aside some lands for nature. …

“Along the way, the UCRT’s work attracted a young British volunteer, Jo Anderson, who proposed helping the Hadza earn money from their newly acquired land rights by protecting the forests from invaders and selling the resulting carbon credits.” 

At YaleEnvironment360, here, read more on how the initiative evolved. No firewall.

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Photo: The Guardian
In Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, bus rapid transit on the Morogoro Road has cut typical commute times from four hours a day to 90 minutes.

Big challenges sometimes get resolved more efficiently when fancy solutions are bypassed in favor of more straightforward ones. That is what a large African city discovered when it chose the concept of dedicated bus lanes over building a subway.

Nick Van Mead has the report at the Guardian, “Dusk falls in Dar es Salaam, and for hundreds of thousands of people in this African megacity-to-be the daily chaos and frustration of the journey home begins.

“People cram themselves into dalla dalla minibuses, some even climbing through the windows once the entrance is blocked. Others hang out of the doors, but the Kilwa Road heading south towards Mbagala slum is jammed and these diesel-belchers are going nowhere fast.

“On Bagamoyo Road to the wealthier areas in the north, solo drivers in blacked-out 4x4s sit stationary too – captive customers for the hawkers. … So far, so normal for a sprawling megalopolis of 6 million with virtually no public transport and only eight lanes of major road heading to and from the centre.

“Dar es Salaam, the de facto capital of Tanzania, is one of the fastest growing cities in Africa. Its population has increased eightfold since 1980 and swells by half a million people every year. The latest UN projections anticipate it will become a megacity within seven years as its population passes 10 million. …

“Dar es Salaam is pinning its hopes on a solution that could offer a different model for Africa’s megacities, giving them an alternative to a future in thrall to the private car. Unlike many cities on the continent, Dar es Salaam isn’t trying to build a metro. It has chosen a less sexy but cheaper and more achievable route: the bus. …

“The Dart system boasts bus lanes separated from other traffic, mostly in the middle of the road to reduce stoppages. Ticket payment and control takes place at stations rather than on board, while step-free stations and boarding mean the entire route is accessible to people in wheelchairs or with buggies. …

“The average journey time from the centre to the terminus at Kimara has been slashed from two hours each way to just 45 minutes, according to sustainable transport group the ITDP. That adds up to a saving of around 50 hours a month for the average bus passenger making the full trip. The ITDP awarded the system Africa’s only ‘gold standard’ bus rapid transit (BRT) rating.

“ ‘The new buses are much, much better,’ says Paulas George, a young IT worker waiting at Manzese station. He takes the bus every day and it has cut his journey time by two-thirds. He says it is not perfect though, complaining drivers sometimes turn off the air conditioning to save fuel.

“That is not the only teething problem. A shortage of buses after the main depot flooded during the 2017 rainy season means the system is carrying 200,000 people a day – half the expected capacity. Smartcard readers at station entrances aren’t working either, forcing passengers to buy individual paper tickets for every journey. Each is printed with a scannable QR code, but there are no scanners. Station staff stand by the gates and tear tickets as people enter. …

“ ‘Much of the city will have access to a world-class transport system within the space of a few years,’ says Chris Kost, the ITDP’s Africa director. All phases are being planned to gold standards and, once complete, a third of city residents will be within a 10-minute walk of the BRT network. …

“Kost [sees the metro fad] as political expediency. ‘Because metro systems don’t take up road space and don’t take away from cars then they are politically easier,’ he says. ‘Politicians see it as a big project with no sacrifices. But what if it never gets built? What if what is built is too expensive and so limited in size it leaves the majority of city residents no better off?

“ ‘It can be tempting for those in power, but is it really addressing the needs of people of the city? Bus rapid transit has been transformational for Dar es Salaam. For millions of people in African cities, this is their best hope of ever being connected.’ ”

More at the Guardian, here.

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Photo: Photobucket at Psychology Today
Hadza grandmother in Northern Tanzania. Hazda grandmothers’ labor and care is correlated with better nutritional status and survival rates in Hadza children. Anthropologist Kristen Hawkes studies the Hazda for a window on ancient worlds.

As a grandmother myself, I am naturally drawn to well researched articles on grandmothers throughout history. Their role has fluctuated, of course. In some periods, they have been useful — essential even. At other times, they have been pretty useless. Here’s a report from John Poole about very early grandmothers. I heard it at Rhode Island Public Radio.

Kristen Hawkes is an anthropologist at the University of Utah. She tries to figure out our past by studying modern hunter-gatherers like the Hadza, who likely have lived in the area that is now northern Tanzania for thousands of years. Groups like this are about as close as we can get to seeing how our early human ancestors might have lived.

“Over many extended field visits, Hawkes and her colleagues kept track of how much food a wide sample of Hadza community members were bringing home. She says that when they tracked the success rates of individual men, ‘they almost always failed to get a big animal.’ … In this society at least, the [old] hunting hypothesis seemed way off the mark. If people here were depending on wild meat to survive, they would starve.

“So if dad wasn’t bringing home the bacon, who was? After spending a lot of time with the women on their daily foraging trips, the researchers were surprised to discover that the women, both young and old, were providing the majority of calories to their families and group-mates.

“Mostly, they were digging tubers, which are deeply buried and hard to extract. The success of a mother at gathering these tubers correlated with the growth of her child.

But something else surprising happened once mom had a second baby:

“That original relationship went away and a new correlation emerged with the amount of food their grandmother was gathering. …

“In this foraging society, it turns out, grandmothers were more important to child survival than fathers.”

Other researchers have come up with other likely benefits of prehistoric grandmothers.

Michael Tomasello is a developmental psychologist at Duke University and the Max Planck Institute. … Tomasello originally assumed that the pro-social traits in human babies [described by researchers such as U.C. Davis primatologist Sarah Hrdy] were preparing kids for skills they’d need as adults, in line with the Man the Hunter hypothesis. Now he thinks that Hrdy’s proposal – that human babies are so socially oriented as a result of shared child care and feeding – is a more compelling theory. The traits appear so early in a human’s life that it makes better sense that they were adapted to early childhood situations rather than adult hunting behaviors.

“It’s this ability to ‘put our heads together,’ as Tomasello puts it, that may have allowed humans to survive, thrive and spread across the globe. While the men were out hunting, grandmothers and babies were building the foundation of our species’ success – sharing food, cooperating on more and more complex levels and developing new social relationships.”

More.

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In Tanzania, women farmers appearing on a TV show called in English “Female Food Heroes” are bringing attention to the importance of their work and the barriers to expansion.

Oxfam America reporter Coco McCabe writes about contestant Edna Kiogwe, “She grew up in a farming family and knows well the hurdles they face, especially women farmers who, in her country, own only a small fraction of the land. …

“It’s that inequality — and the lost opportunities buried beneath it — to which Kiogwe and 14 other women farmers helped to bring attention this year as contestants in the fifth season of a highly popular reality TV show shot in Tanzania and aired across East Africa. Called Mama ‘Shujaa wa Chakula ,’ or ‘Female Food Heroes,’ the Oxfam-sponsored show celebrates the vital contributions women farmers make in feeding the planet, and highlights the challenges many encounter on a daily basis, including limited access to land, credit, and training opportunities. …

“In the village of Kisanga, where ‘Mama Shujaa wa Chakula’ was filmed [in 2015], the 15 contestants learned a great deal about the struggles local farmers face in feeding their families. Each of the women stayed with a village family for the duration of the three-week shoot, and daily contests included designing tools that could be useful to Kisanga farmers, interviewing them about their agricultural challenges, and putting together skits to help bring attention to those hurdles. …

“Kiogwe [now] spends most of her time in Dar es Salaam, a coastal city about a two-and-a-half hour drive away, where she lives and works as a civil servant. But her city life belies her village roots — and her keen interest in farming. Unlike most women in Tanzania, Kiogwe owns her own land, given to her by her forward-thinking father on her wedding day. She harvests corn, cassava, rice, and sugar cane, carefully aligning her 28 days of annual leave from her city job with peak work times on her small farm in the Morogoro region. …

“ ‘I want to make agriculture like a business,’ says Kiogwe. … With a little effort, greater value can be added to the fruits farmers grow, for instance.

“ ‘Change it from fruit to juice, we can sell it … We can add value to maize — maize flour for porridge — and you can have a good label and good packaging and compete with international businesses. That is my dream.’ ” More here.

According to OXFAMCloseup, the nonprofit’s quarterly magazine, the episodes shot in Kisanga, Tanzania, aired in five countries and had 14 million people tune in. The magazine adds, “Versions of the program are now being produced in Ethiopia and Nigeria, and some finalists have become involved in local, national, and even global farmer advocacy.”

Photo: Coco McCabe / Oxfam America
Edna Kiogwe helps her host family with the morning chores in Kisanga, where the TV show “Female Food Heroes” was filmed in 2015.

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According to a feature provided by the Christian Science Monitor, drip-irrigation systems are becoming a boon to regions suffering from persistent drought.

Kizito Makoye writes for Reuters, “Peter Chuwa has long flooded his paddy field using a canal that draws water from the river. These days, however, water is scarcer and growing rice this way is proving hard to sustain. A period of drought set in two years ago, and the abundant water that once helped suppress weeds in his fields and assure him of a crop regardless of rainfall has disappeared, hurting his harvests and his income. …

“Now, however, a drip irrigation system, introduced to help his village deal with worsening drought, is restoring his harvests, building his resilience to erratic weather, and saving time, he says.

” ‘You simply open the tap and leave the kit to supply water to the roots, unlike the traditional system, which takes a lot of time and energy,’ he said.

“Under pressure from drought, the 65-year-old farmer at Kikavu Chini village in Hai district in Tanzania’s northern Kilimanjaro region has switched to crops that need less water, including vegetables, maize, potatoes, and beans. A drip irrigation system, which uses far less water, supplies plenty to grow those crops, he says. …”

Nguluma Mbaga, a Kikavu Chini agricultural field officer, says the technology has come at the right time as farmers try to find ways to cope with worsening drought and other effects of climate change.

” ‘I believe farmers will be in a better position to cope with the changing weather patterns. This village is located in a dry area that does not get adequate rains, so farmers must try to use water wisely,’ he says.”

More here.

Photo: Mariana Bazo/Reuters/File
A farmer cleans prickly pear cacti irrigated with water collected by nets that trap moisture from fog on a hillside in Lima, Peru.

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