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

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Abstract

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.

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Notes

  1. “Strengthening Resilience of Coastal and Small Island Communities towards Hydro-meteorological Hazards and Climate Change Impacts” project.

  2. Detailed descriptions of the action research are provided in Hiwasaki et al. (2014a), and the process for integrating local and indigenous knowledge with science that emerged out of the action research is described in Hiwasaki et al. (2014b).

  3. Research in the first phase was undertaken in Indonesia by Bingkai Indonesia, and in the Philippines, by the Center for Disaster Preparedness (CDP). The first phase research results from Timor-Leste are not presented in this paper. The implementing organizations in Indonesia and Timor-Leste changed in the second phase of the project. In Indonesia, the Tsunami and Disaster Mitigation Research Center (TDMRC) conducted research in two sites: Pulo Aceh (Aceh) and Sayung (Central Java, in cooperation with the Indonesian Society for Disaster Management). In Timor-Leste, the National Center for Scientific Research at the National University of Timor-Leste conducted research. Local and indigenous knowledge documented in the Philippines was more detailed, and research results and analysis were more thorough due to the continuity of both the implementing NGO and sites. The authors do not feel that these differences had a negative impact on the overall outcome of the project.

  4. For more discussions of local knowledge that may contribute to increased vulnerability or “mal-adaptation”, see Mercer et al. (2012).

  5. For more detailed discussions on the different categories of local and indigenous knowledge, see Hiwasaki et al. 2014a, b

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Acknowledgments

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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Correspondence to Lisa Hiwasaki.

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Hiwasaki, L., Luna, E., Syamsidik et al. Local and indigenous knowledge on climate-related hazards of coastal and small island communities in Southeast Asia. Climatic Change 128, 35–56 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-014-1288-8

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