Traditional knowledge, social capital, and community response to a disaster: resilience of remote communities in Fiji after a severe climatic event


This article examines responses by four remote communities in Fiji to the extensive damage caused by Tropical Cyclone Winston (TCW) of 2016, differences among these communities, and factors that make a particular community more disaster-resilient than others. In Fiji, traditional knowledge of climate and disaster mitigation has been known to contribute to better disaster management resilience by communities. TCW of 2016 is one of the strongest cyclones that have struck the islands of Fiji, and many of its remote communities were severely damaged. Responses to the damage caused by TCW varied from community to community, and resilience was shown to depend on the availability of traditional knowledge of climate and disaster mitigation as well as the effective mobilization of social capital exhibited in the long-standing tradition in Fijian villages of mutual help within the community. Our findings suggest that communities without such resources are often left out in recovery processes and may be in particular need of support.

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Fig. 1


  1. 1.

    The 2017 census did not collect data broken down to ethnic groups.

  2. 2.

    Vanua is an indigenous Fijian word often translated as “land,” but it encompasses the entire indigenous socio-cultural systems embedded in land.

  3. 3.

    Sevusevu refers to the presentation of yaqona root (Piper methysticum, used to prepare a ceremonial beverage) in a ceremony of introduction or greeting by a visitor.

  4. 4.

    In Fiji, the expression “grog doped” denotes that a person is under the influence of traditional drink called kava, which has sedating effects.


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We sincerely thank the interviewees from the four study sites, as well as Jovesa Tagivakatini and Raveena Goundar for their contribution as research assistants.


This project was funded by The University of the South Pacific.

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Correspondence to Naohiro Nakamura.

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Communicated by Tony Weir

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Nakamura, N., Kanemasu, Y. Traditional knowledge, social capital, and community response to a disaster: resilience of remote communities in Fiji after a severe climatic event. Reg Environ Change 20, 23 (2020).

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  • Community resilience
  • Disaster
  • Cyclone
  • Traditional knowledge
  • Social capital
  • Fiji