International Journal of Disaster Risk Science

, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp 185–194 | Cite as

Integration of indigenous knowledge and disaster risk reduction: A case study from Baie Martelli, Pentecost Island, Vanuatu

  • Rory A. Walshe
  • Patrick D. Nunn
Open Access


Despite reaching heights of >6 m and destroying a sizeable coastal settlement at the head of Baie Martelli (Pentecost Island, Vanuatu, South Pacific), the 26 November 1999 tsunamis caused only five fatalities from a threatened population of about 300 persons, most of whom fled inland and upslope before the waves struck. This remarkable survival rate is attributed to both indigenous knowledge, largely in the form of kastom knowledge, and information obtained from a video about tsunamis that was shown in the area three weeks earlier. Interviews with 55 persons who experienced this tsunami suggest that indigenous knowledge about tsunami risk and response in Baie Martelli was well known among key members of the community and was probably largely responsible for the appropriate response. Future strategies for disaster risk reduction should involve maintaining such indigenous knowledge in such communities and supplementing this where needed with scientific knowledge filtered through indigenous culture and language.


disaster risk reduction indigenous knowledge Pacific Islands tsunami Vanuatu 


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© The Author(s) 2012

This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits any use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited.

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Geography, Environment and Disaster ManagementCoventry UniversityCoventryUK
  2. 2.School of Behavioural, Cognitive and Social SciencesUniversity of New EnglandArmidaleAustralia

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