Exploring the Integration of Traditional Knowledge in Disaster Risk Management and Climate Change Adaptation Policies and Practices: Guadalcanal of the Solomon Islands as a Case Study

Hagaria, Jerry Wells
Le De, Loic
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Master of Disaster Risk Management and Development
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Auckland University of Technology

Global and regional policy frameworks have increasingly emphasised the need for the integration of traditional knowledge in Disaster Risk Management (DRM) and Climate Change Adaptation (CCA). This is reflected in the Pacific Island Countries (PICs), where there have been increased efforts from both governments and Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) to incorporate traditional knowledge of local people in their policies and actions geared to DRM and CCA. However, the extent to which traditional knowledge is integrated into practice is not always very clear. Focusing on Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands, this study aimed to explore the significance of traditional knowledge in the face of disaster and climate change, and if and how it is integrated into DRM and CCA. This study was conducted from November 2021 to January 2022. Six semi-structured interviews were conducted with DRM and CCA practitioners from government agencies and NGOs working in Guadalcanal and with local community representatives. All interviews were done remotely via Zoom except for one interview which was conducted via phone call. Thematic analysis was employed to analyse the data collected. The findings demonstrate that local communities are aware of the existing risks within their locality and that they have developed different types of knowledge and mechanisms to overcome or adapt to those risks. Furthermore, the research recognises that while traditional knowledge is effective for DRM and CCA, it is also changing and deteriorating due to external influences brought by development and western civilisation. The dissertation identifies challenges for effectively incorporating traditional knowledge in policies and practice, including the absence of a clear definition for traditional knowledge, inadequate financial resources and limited information sharing between practitioners, policy makers and local communities. The findings also indicate that while traditional knowledge is mentioned in policy guidelines, the views of the communities who own this traditional knowledge are not always represented because policies tend to be designed using a top-down approach. There are many reasons for strengthening the integration of traditional knowledge in policy and programming initiated by government agencies and NGOs, including the need for research to document traditional knowledge in the face of disasters and climate change, and the need to learn from the previous policies. This study concludes by highlighting the importance of the government and NGOs in engaging local people during the policy design phase for DRM and CCA. It also highlights the need to create a framework that is able to incorporate the communities’ traditional knowledge with the knowledge of DRM and CCA practitioners in policy and practices.

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