“In Tanzania, it is as if we don’t exist,” says Salumu Kundaya Kidomwita, a Barabaig cattle herder whose name translates to “Warthog.”
At the age of 60, Kidomwita is facing his second eviction in the last decade. After being pushed out of his home by a rice plantation in 2008, his new village of Kwa Wagonzi is being uprooted to make way for a dam that will provide irrigation for commercial rice and sugar farms. Like warthogs, who can live for several months of the year without water, the Barabaig have had to adapt their herder lifestyle with similar austerity due to competing interests for dwindling land and resources.
The World Bank initially required Tanzania to follow the bank’s policy for protecting indigenous groups such as the Barabaig and Hadzabe tribes. But the World Bank’s board has granted an East African agribusiness project called SAGCOT a waiver that exempts it from following the bank’s Indigenous Peoples Policy — sparking fears among human rights advocates that the development lender is setting a precedent that weakens protections for indigenous peoples. The bank maintains that indigenous communities will still be protected under procedures established for the SAGCOT project.
These are images of the Barabaig people and their daily life in Tanzania’s Morogoro region.
The Kilombero Valley, where the Barabaig people live, is one of the areas where SAGCOT is investing in commercial agriculture. The Tanzanian government launched SAGCOT in 2010 to promote economic growth in Tanzania’s southern corridor, which covers a third of mainland Tanzania extending from the capital, Dar es Salaam, to Tanzania’s border with Zambia. Over a 20-year period, SAGCOT aims to convert 350,000 hectares of land into commercial production, boost annual farming revenues by $1.2 billion and lift roughly 450,000 farming households out of poverty, the Tanzanian government estimated.
Salumu Kundaya Kidomwita, 60, saunters down a trail to his wife Malinja’s hut on his way back from market day in nearby Nambogo, where multiple tribes meet to sell everything from livestock to maize and cloth. Kiodomwita says he has a lot on his mind, but for now it’s rain season and says when “the grass is green, it is peace.” “The Barabaig like to blend in and not disturb nature,” he says. The Barabaig people’s lack of visibility, however, has led to many land disputes in recent decades.
Kidomwita with five members of his large family at their boma — Kidomwita is an elder of the tribe, and has four wives and 22 children. Bomas, made of dung, mud and sticks, are meant to be temporary abodes for the Barabaig, who traditionally move with their herds throughout the year. The structures are made from found materials so they meld with the surrounding environment, something that is valued by the Barabaig.
Kidomwita, 60, and Mama, 2. Mama is the youngest of Kidomwita's 22, going on 23, children. "It's hard to keep track," admits Kidomwita, laughing.
Udenda Gidaghorjod, 20, and her mother, Udangashega Wembida, 40, in traditional Barabaig dress at home. “It is the farmers who are invited to meetings about our land, not us,” said Wembida, a mother of two from Kwa Wagonzi. Now “we are threatened with the bulldozers and roads being made for business. We are told by village leaders to go where we came — but that is here!”
Gidanmwahu Gopa, an elder Barabaig herder from Hanang, is resigned about the situation. “I know we must leave but I don’t know where," he says. "I have heard of the dam project in Kidunda and sugarcane plantations and I do not see how these land issues can be addressed when we have nowhere to go. We are not involved or compensated adequately."
Cattle being herded from Nambogo market by Barabaig herders.
Udamugh, whose name means “waiting to heal,” fingers the yellow beads around her neck. She says she was forced to settle in Mkombani four years ago when park rangers from Mikumi National Park shot six of her cows, one by one, as she watched from inside her boma. “No words were exchanged,” she says. “I was so upset. My family went to the district council to file a complaint but no one investigated. To this day we have not been compensated. To the government I say, tell us where to go to have peace.”
A portrait of young Barabaig woman and child.
A Barabaig woman and her siblings. According to a report by the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs, the Barabaig have been targeted for state-sponsored evictions for half a century. “Operation Barabaig” was a program designed to permanently settle Barabaig herders, forcing families from their homes and seizing their rangelands for tourism and commercial agriculture interests.
“We are not settling well here,” says one Barabaig woman. “For decades, we move, come back, move, come back, chased by our government, the park rangers and farmers. We are tired. We are old. But the threats continue.”
Read the full story: World Bank Allows Tanzania To Sidestep Rule Protecting Indigenous Groups
Dana Ullman is an East Africa-based reporter and photographer working for The GroundTruth Project, which reported this story in partnership with ICIJ. She also recived support from the International Women's Media Foundation.