Climatic Change

, Volume 128, Issue 1–2, pp 35–56 | Cite as

Local and indigenous knowledge on climate-related hazards of coastal and small island communities in Southeast Asia

  • Lisa HiwasakiEmail author
  • Emmanuel Luna
  • Syamsidik
  • José Adriano Marçal


Coastal and small island communities in Southeast Asia face daily threats from the impacts of climate change and climate-related hazards. This paper describes and analyses local and indigenous knowledge and practices related to climate-related hazards identified and documented in Indonesia, the Philippines and Timor-Leste. These include observations of changes in the environment and celestial bodies to predict climate-related hazards. Communities use local materials and methods to prevent and/or mitigate such hazards, and adapt to and prepare for them. Rituals and ceremonies are based on traditional or religious beliefs. Together with customary laws that govern behaviour, these rituals engender and reinforce respect for the environment, strengthen social cohesion, and thus help communities to better face and respond to the impacts of climate change and climate-related hazards. After going through a process of documentation, analysis and validation, local and indigenous knowledge can be grouped and categorised, which helps us better understand how such knowledge can be integrated with science. This will then enable communities to develop strategies to cope with climate-related hazards and adapt to climate change. Scientists, practitioners and policy-makers can also harness this knowledge for further research, education, and policy. It is important to promote the transmission of local and indigenous knowledge to increase community resilience.


Climate Change Impact Local Food Climate Change Adaptation Indigenous Knowledge Disaster Risk Reduction 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors gratefully acknowledge all the researchers who undertook research in the field sites. UNESCO/Japan Funds-in-Trust generously funded the “Strengthening Resilience of Coastal and Small Island Communities towards Hydro-Meteorological Hazards and Climate Change Impacts” project (2011–2014). Funding of the Asia-Pacific Network for Global Change Research, under “Capacity-Building to Strengthen Resilience of Coastal and Small Island Communities against Impacts of Hydro-Meteorological Hazards and Climate Change” project (2012–2013), is also gratefully acknowledged. The authors thank Dr Jessica Mercer for providing comments on a draft, and the anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments. The first author was a Visiting Research Fellow at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore, during the time much of this work was completed.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lisa Hiwasaki
    • 1
    Email author
  • Emmanuel Luna
    • 2
  • Syamsidik
    • 3
  • José Adriano Marçal
    • 4
  1. 1.Programme Specialist for Small Islands and Indigenous KnowledgeUNESCO Office JakartaKebayoran BaruIndonesia
  2. 2.College of Social Work and Community DevelopmentUniversity of the Philippines-DilimanQuezon CityPhilippines
  3. 3.Tsunami and Disaster Mitigation Research Center (TDMRC), and Civil Engineering DepartmentSyiah Kuala UniversityBanda AcehIndonesia
  4. 4.National Center for Scientific Research (CNIC)National University of Timor-LesteDiliTimor-Leste

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