The conservation solutions helping Tanzania’s Hadza protect their culture, lands, and livelihoods 

Photo: Roshni Lodhia

Photo: Roshni Lodhia

Community Conservation Solutions in Africa

Across Africa, great local organizations are working with communities and other partners to deliver innovative solutions that work for people and nature. Maliasili’s mission is to help those organizations become more effective and achieve greater impact; one way we do that is by helping to tell their stories. This new monthly series provides a closer look at the frontlines of African conservation, highlighting the most important solutions and the organizations that are making it happen.

In Brief: Secure community land rights and new market opportunities from carbon credits have enabled the Hadza hunter-gatherers in northern Tanzania- one of East Africa’s most unique cultures- to develop an award-winning model for indigenous-led conservation, while protecting their territories and culture.

Photo: Roshni Lodhia

Photo: Roshni Lodhia

How it works:

  • Secure land rights: Thanks to an innovative legal model developed by the Ujamaa Community Resource Team (UCRT), the Hadza and neighboring tribes have obtained legal right to approximately 105,000 hectares of forest and pasture, which provides the foundation for their livelihoods and preserves their culture.

  • Increasing benefits: Since 2013, the Hadza community, district and local government bodies have received over $300,000 from carbon credit sales brokered by Carbon Tanzania, a local social enterprise. 

  • Strong partnerships: With UCRT playing the central role in supporting the Hadza for the past 20 years, a wide range of supporters including the Dorobo Fund for Tanzania, Veterinarians Sans Frontiers (VSF), and The Nature Conservancy have played important roles in this growing success story.


  • About $70,000 is earned by Hadza communities in annual income from carbon credit sales.

  • Approx 21,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions avoided each year through forest conservation efforts.

  • Wildlife numbers are stable or increasing in Hadza territories in the Yaeda Valley according to recent peer-reviewed research.

Photo: Felipe Rodriguez

Photo: Felipe Rodriguez

Indigenous Rights and Conservation:

The Hadza are one of East Africa’s most unique indigenous communities. With the most traditional hunter-gatherer culture and livelihood surviving in the region, the Hadza now reside almost entirely in and around the Yaeda Valley, located adjacent to Lake Eyasi and in the shadow of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, one of Tanzania’s most famous conservation areas and tourism sites. 

For the Hadza, conservation of the rich wildlife and natural systems that they have lived alongside for millennia is a simple matter of survival- and their ability to continue existing as a people. They depend on wild animals and plants for food, and cash income- now needed to pay for modern health and education services, among other things- is generated through the sale of wild products such as honey- and, increasingly, new nature-based businesses that the community controls. 

During the past decade, the Hadza have been able to successfully blend their traditional culture with new legal mechanisms to protect their land and conserve their environment, and new enterprises that support both their rights and their livelihoods. This culminated in their recent recognition from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with the award of an Equator Prize, given bi-annually by the UN to leading global examples of community and indigenous conservation. The conservation model developed with the Hadza in the Yaeda Valley- and the pioneering work of the Ujamaa Community Resource Team (UCRT) in helping the Hadza to integrate culture, conservation, and indigenous rights- is emblematic of the kind of people-centered conservation approaches that are needed in Africa today.

Photo: Felipe Rodriguez

Photo: Felipe Rodriguez

Photo: Felipe Rodriguez

Photo: Felipe Rodriguez

Securing the Hadza’s Land:

For decades, the greatest threat to the Hadza’s existence has come from progressive encroachment by other groups of people- pastoralist livestock-keepers and farmers- that have moved into the Yaeda Valley as human populations have mushroomed in northern Tanzania. This has left the Hadza with less and less land and threatened the ecological richness that they need to survive, as wildlife has been subject to greater pressure from poaching, and natural forests are converted to farms and settlements. When UCRT began working with the Hadza community in Yaeda Valley in the 1990s, it seemed like the community was likely to disappear altogether. 

The key intervention UCRT spearheaded at that time, and continues to advance today, is using a legal provision of Tanzanian land law to secure a form of community land title for the Hadza. The first of these titles, called a ‘CCRO’ under Tanzanian law, was put in place in 2011, securing about 20,000 hectares of the most important intact forest under Hadza control. Since then, UCRT has worked with the Hadza to nearly double that through processing additional CCRO titles, and also worked with the neighboring Datoga pastoralist communities to secure their key livestock pastures in CCROs, so that the Datoga have more secure property rights and less incentive to bring livestock into Hadza areas. In total, UCRT has helped secure over a dozen more CCROs covering roughly 105,000 hectares for the two communities.

As the map below indicates, these CCROs protect- under secure local land tenure and management- a contiguous area of land that stretches from Yaeda Valley to the border of Ngorongoro Conservation Area. This facilitates the movement of wildlife, which, in turn, helps bolster food security for the Hadza, as well as supporting conservation at the landscape scale.

The CCRO has proven to be a powerful mechanism to protect the collective rights of indigenous and local groups whose livelihoods depend on communal land rights, while at the same time protecting nature and wildlife with the community in full control of their land and resources.
— Edward Lekaita, Ujamaa Community Resource Team

Map: UCRT's work on securing Hadza and Datoga land rights has helped create a corridor providing landscape connectivity and facilitating wildlife movement between the Yaeda Valley and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

Map: UCRT's work on securing Hadza and Datoga land rights has helped create a corridor providing landscape connectivity and facilitating wildlife movement between the Yaeda Valley and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

Photo: Roshni Lodhia

Photo: Roshni Lodhia

Making money from forest protection:

In 2013, a new element of these conservation efforts was added when Carbon Tanzania- a social enterprise that develops carbon forestry (‘REDD’) projects and sells carbon credits to both local and international buyers- developed their first Tanzanian initiative in partnership with the Hadza, and in collaboration with UCRT. The essence of this project is that by implementing and enforcing their land use and management plans, the Hadza are able to prevent the loss of carbon stored in their forests that would otherwise take place due to clearance for farms or charcoal production. This generates measurable carbon credits that can then be sold through global markets, which Carbon Tanzania specializes in doing. Since 2013, Carbon Tanzania has paid over $250,000 to the Hadza community, and a share to district and local government bodies, through this project. 

This revenue has helped pay for improvements to forest management, such as locally employed Hadza forest scouts, who ensures that Hadza land rights are respected and the carbon credits generated. This creates a virtuous cycle that lies at the heart of all successful community conservation initiatives: communities earn revenue from sustainable nature-based businesses; the money enhances their capacity to manage their resources and support community development priorities; increased local investment in conservation helps restore wildlife, forests, and other aspects of their environment.

Photo: Paul Joynson-Hicks

Photo: Paul Joynson-Hicks

Verifying Impact:

Recent scientific research and analysis provides important evidence that this community conservation model is delivering results. Carbon Tanzania’s own analysis- verified by the Plan Vivo Standards that oversees the project’s carbon credits- documents a 9% decline in deforestation rates in Yaeda Valley since the project began five years ago, in sharp contrast to rising deforestation due to growing pressures on land outside the project site. A new paper on wildlife populations in the area published in the journal PLoS One (see below) finds that the Hadza lands host a diverse wildlife assemblage, including elephants, lions, cheetah, and wild dogs, and that most wildlife are stable or increasing in the area. 

A key lesson from Yaeda over the past 20 years of dedicated community-level work by UCRT, Carbon Tanzania, and other partners is that, despite growing pressures on land and resources in northern Tanzania, conservation initiatives based on strong community rights, incentives, and decision-making can flourish. The Equator Prize is the latest validation of what these exemplary Tanzanian conservation leaders and the local communities they support can achieve, if given the right support. For Maliasili, this reinforces our belief that entrepreneurial and locally-rooted approaches- and strong local organizations- is the key to successful conservation that works for both people and nature.

The Yaeda Valley REDD project is an example of the power of strong collaboration between organisations, communities and government. Collaboration between organisations makes them more resilient and creative, and partnerships require honesty and clear communication to build the trust that makes it all work.
— Marc Baker, Founder & Director, Carbon Tanzania


Learn more:

Equator Prize 2019

announcement from the United Nations Development Programme, including the ‘Yaeda Valley project’ as one of 22 recognized community and indigenous initiatives from around the world. Read the full press release here. Learn more about the Yaeda Valley project here.


Ancient hunter-gatherer tribe protects traditional forest with help from carbon trading.

A feature article in Mongabay (2016) on conservation efforts by Carbon Tanzania and others in the Yaeda Valley. Read the article here.


Maliasili review of community forest enterprises in Tanzania (2018)

written for the African Biodiversity Collaborative Group, which includes a detailed case study on Carbon Tanzania and their projects in the Yaeda Valley. Download the report here.


Land use, REDD+ and the status of wildlife populations in Yaeda Valley, northern Tanzania.

A new paper in the scientific journal PLos One, on wildlife conservation outcomes in Yaeda Valley, highlighting the role of local land use zones and other management systems in the recovery of wildlife. Read the paper here.


Ujamaa Community Resource Team:

An article in The Guardian on UCRT’s work advancing local communities’ land rights, and their receipt of the Goldman Environmental Prize for Africa in 2016. For more information on Maliasili’s long-standing work with UCRT, see this short case study and this film clip.


A feature in Cultural Survival Quarterly

describes how UCRT has helped Hadza communities secure land titles using innovative legal mechanisms. Read the article here. Visit


Hadza: By the Light of a Million Fires

a book on the Hadza includes conservation and land rights initiatives, by Daudi Peterson, co-founder of the Dorobo Fund for Tanzania. Read more about the book here here. Visit


Read this 2015 article in The Nature Conservancy magazine on conservation initiatives with the Hadza,

led by UCRT, Carbon Tanzania, and other supporting partners.


Support forest conservation, forest dependent communities, and help combat global climate change.

Buy carbon offsets here. For more information, visit


Learn about Maliasili's support to Ujamaa Community Resource Team:

Five years ago, UCRT realized that if they wanted to help more communities across northern Tanzania own, manage, and benefit from their land, they needed their organizational skills to match their field skills. Since then, each year we work together to identify their major organizational challenges, prioritize them, and find solutions. With a refined impact model, strengthened communications, new partnerships and networks, and a system to track their progress, today UCRT has more staff, more money, and more support for their work.

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