05.12.2012 - UNESCO Office in Jakarta

The important role of Indigenous knowledge in disaster warning

@Flickr/The Advocacy ProjectPractical Action Nepal has improved flood warning systems in the country

Indigenous knowledge and science often seem poles apart, but meshing them can curb disaster risk, reports Smriti Mallapaty in a Feature titled “Snakes and folk tales meet science in disaster warning” that appeared in SciDevNet on 21 November 2012.

In the article, examples from Nepal, China, and Indonesia are used to illustrate the question: can experience and knowledge of indigenous people offer significant protection against disasters?

“Strengthening Resilience of Coastal and Small Island Communities towards Hydro-meteorological Hazards and Climate Change Impacts project” is based on the premise that yes, local and indigenous knowledge, when integrated with scientific knowledge, can play an important role in disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation. The project, funded by the Japan Funds-in-Trust and implemented by UNESCO Jakarta Office, is mentioned in the feature article, as an example of efforts around the globe to integrate indigenous knowledge with science for disaster risk reduction.

Ms Lisa Hiwasaki, head of Sciences for Society Unit, is quoted in the article as saying: “many people agree on the importance of incorporating local and indigenous knowledge in disaster education, but that in practice little has been done… Disaster preparedness is a lengthy process that requires long-term commitment, so it's often overshadowed by 'more urgent' issues."

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