- Mary Rogelstad
- April 19, 2022
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It’s estimated that only about 1,000 people in the world can speak the Hadzabe language that uses clicks for consonants. It’s spoken by the nomadic Hadzabe hunter-gatherer tribe, which is one of the last tribes of its kind on the planet.
Rustic Pathways students on the Culture and the Crater program in Tanzania visit with tribe members to learn about their language, lifestyle and hunting techniques. This includes lessons about animal tracking, making arrowheads, and building fires.
The Hadzabe are one of about 130 ethnic groups in the country. Within these groups there may be four or five variations of their language. Generally communication across the country is possible because Swahili is the national language. Still there can be difficulties understanding the different lifestyles of various ethnic groups.
Tanzania Community Impact Manager Tusekile Mwakalundwa says outside influences have particularly been a challenge for the Hadzabe people. They’ve had to contend with the negative impact of donations that don’t fit their culture.
She says Rustic students will see empty schools that were donated but were not practical for a tribe that is on the move. The Tanzanian government met with tribal leaders to try to come up with potentially better options and built boarding schools at recommended sites, but this is also controversial.
“When you keep children in school, they are missing the informal education they would have gotten from their parents, which we could argue is more important for their type of lifestyle and sustenance,” Mwakalundwa said. “We also have people come – tourists mainly – who want to give them certain clothes, but this is not their way of life. We’re changing their way of life.”
Rustic students will have the opportunity to discuss this and other similar topics as they spend time in local Tanzanian communities. In addition to their day with the Hadzabe tribe, the students spend several days in a local village where they’ll do their service.
A Full Immersion into Remote Village Life
For about ten days Rustic students will work and live in the village of Bonde la Faru. It’ll be the village homebase for Rustic students who travel to the country for the Culture and Crater program over the next three or four years.
As with all of Rustic’s programs, a long term relationship is established with villages to ensure necessary larger projects can be completed and to help strengthen ties between visiting students and the local residents who are welcoming students into their community.
Unlike the village where Rustic students worked in previous years, this village has a school and a community water tub that makes bucket showers possible. Still the Rustic students will learn what it is like to live each day without most modern amenities.
“It’s really transformative and stretches students beyond all comfort zones,” Mwakalundwa said.
The daily routines help students see the value of water access. In these villages, local residents often have to walk up to 10 kilometers or more than six miles to get water. To supplement that supply, they also collect rainwater.
The program staff makes it much easier for Rustic students by providing bottled water for drinking and having meals made by a chef. Therefore, their challenges are more limited. Still they get a good look at this issue, along with the struggle for formal education that these villagers, unlike some of Hadzabe people, want.
Many families in remote Tanzanian villages have difficulty providing schooling for their children. In the other village where Rustic students previously worked, the kids had to walk long distances to get to school. This summer Rustic students will help ensure the children in Bonde la Faru keep getting an education closer to home.
It’s expected that the Rustic students will help with the building of a kitchen for the local school this summer. Masons will take care of the work that requires expertise. Students will assist with tasks like getting water for cement mixing or gathering and moving buckets of sand or gravel.
Alumnus Ethan Guinn, who visited Tanzania with Rustic in 2019, says he found the work challenging as a “skinny 5 foot 2 boy.” But he says he is a go-getter and kept trying when he was asked to carry heavy buckets.
“I never gave up and pushed myself to keep on going. When others were taking breaks I would keep on working because I wanted to do my best and to help out as much as I can,” Guinn said.
He says these kinds of projects helped build his confidence. Aside from this kind of work, students should also get the chance to try several important tasks in the village. This includes cow milking, cooking, and tailoring clothes. Along the way, they’ll learn some phrases in Swahili.
During the village stay, hiking is also on the agenda. The village is near the rim of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site full of flora and fauna. The area has many options for hiking. One stop is expected to be a coffee plantation. Coffee is Tanzania’s largest export crop, and the farmers are working on making their production more eco-friendly.
After the students learn about the region and its people, they travel to the area’s crater or caldera where an animal adventure awaits.
Heading to the Crater for an African Safari Experience
The Ngorongoro Crater was created when a large volcano erupted and collapsed millions of years ago. The caldera covers about 100 square miles. There are about 25,000 large animals that live in and around the crater.
Mwakalundwa says visitors normally see elephants, giraffes, zebras and wildebeest. Lions are there some days, but rhinos are not as common. The village name Bonde la Faru means “valley of the rhinos,” but this animal has not fared well in the region.
Black rhinos have been devastated by poachers and loss of habitat. Conservationists from several African nations have been working together to try to save the remaining animals and give them safe places to thrive.
Students will ride in open roof vehicles to see the dense population of wildlife that are protected in the region. Human activities are limited in the area, which has caused challenges for the Maasai people. They are among the pastoralists in the region who replaced hunter-gatherer tribes in the area thousands of years ago. The Maasi were pushed out of Serengeti National Park by the government and relocated to Ngorongoro. Since then restrictions on land use have caused further tensions.
There is an ongoing effort to balance human activity with the need for conservation while also respecting the needs of indigenous groups. Students will learn about this, along with facts about the animals during the conservation area visit.
Alumnus Charlotte Ide soaked in these moments when she traveled to Tanzania with Rustic Pathways when she was 15. She says that before she traveled she wasn’t even sure if she could have quickly found Tanzania on a map. After the trip, she realized how grateful she was for the inspiration she received while visiting the country.
“In the 11 days I was there, we saw incredible animals, indescribably beautiful landscapes, and met people with the most wonderful stories to tell,” Ide said.
Like other alumni, Ide has made it a mission to teach others what she has learned and bring the world to those who have not traveled.
For those who want to experience Tanzania’s treasures like Ide, Rustic Pathways offers two programs to the country. In addition to Culture and the Crater, Rustic Pathways also offers the African Environmental Conservation program. We’ll have more details about the conservation program in an upcoming blog. Stay tuned!