Indegenious knowledge in disaster risk reduction


Published on

Response to a query on indegenious knowledge on Disaster Risk Reduction.

1 Like
  • Be the first to comment

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Indegenious knowledge in disaster risk reduction

  1. 1. Disaster Management Community, India Disaster Management and Risk Reduction Community, IndonesiaConsolidated ReplyQuery: Using indigenous knowledge for disaster riskmanagement activities - Experience; ExampleCompiled by G Padmanabhan, Resource Person, Nupur Arora, Research Associate andRina Suryani Oktari, Research AssistantIssue Date: 3 June 2009From Bibhu Kalyan Mohanty, SAMBANDH, BhubaneswarPosted 8 April 2009SAMBANDH, an NGO is implementing a community based disaster preparedness programme inOrissa, India. We are conducting training and capacity building on disaster management,preparing contingency plans and forming structured taskforces for risk management, relief andrecovery during and in the aftermath of a disaster.While implementing this program, we have come across well-developed traditional indigenousknowledge systems for early warning mechanisms and coping strategies for natural calamitieswithin and outside India. Science and technology and traditional knowledge when appliedtogether enable better disaster risk management. Since time immemorial, disaster managementhas been deeply rooted in local communities which apply and use indigenous knowledge tounderstand climate and other natural systems and establish early warning indicators and copingmechanisms.Similar is the case with Indonesia, where various, the pilot projects of disaster risk managementhave been carried out using the indigenous knowledge approach. For examples, they have Song(a local term for tsunami) early warning system in Simelue Island. Lately, this approach adoptedintentionally by local universities and disaster management experts.With the above context from the two countries, we would like to conduct a specific study onindigenous knowledge on various coping mechanisms and early warning systems. For this, werequest community members for the following: • What experiences are you aware of for carrying out disaster risk management through use of indigenous knowledge for disaster management?
  2. 2. • Are there any studies or research available, and how have these studies have been incorporated into the current scientific framework for environmental conservation and natural disaster management?Your contributions will help us designing our project and encourage the use of indigenousknowledge for disaster management.Responses were received, with thanks, from members of the followingCommunities:Solution Exchange for the Disaster Management Community India1. Man B Thapa, United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, Nepal2. Annie George, NGO Coordination and Resource Centre, Nagapattinam3. Abha Mishra, United Nations Development Programme, New Delhi4. Prashant Khattri, Department of Anthropology, University of Delhi, New Delhi5. Caroline Borchard, UNDP - Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery, New Delhi6. P. C. Joshi, Department of Anthropology, Delhi University, New Delhi7. Alinawaz Nanjee , Focus Humanitarian Assistance India, Bhavnagar8. Chandrasekhar, India Disaster Management Support Project, USAID, New Delhi9. Gyaneshwar Singh, Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group, India10. Anshu Sharma, SEEDS, New Delhi11. Rudra prasanna Rath, National Rural Health Mission, Orissa12. Abhilash Panda, UNISDR Asia Pacific, Bangkok, Thailand13. H.S. Sharma, Dr. K M Modi Institute of Engineering, Ghaziabad14. Parimita Routray, Sphere India, New Delhi15. Amit Kumar, Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group (GEAG), Lucknow16. Pradeep Mohapatra, UDYAMA, Bhubaneswar*17. Ranjan Praharaj, Focus Humanitarian Assistance India, Gujarat*18. Kedareswar Choudhury, Darabar Sahitya Sansad, Khurda, Orissa*Solution Exchange for the Disaster Management and Risk ReductionCommunity, Indonesia19. Herriansyah, Indonesian Red Cross, Medan- Sumut20. Asep Moh Muhsin, TAGANA, Cianjur*21. Nursyamsu Kusuma, UNORC, Takengon*22. Adharianti Septuina , NGO Mitra Peduli, Banten*23. M. Fahrul Effendi, Indonesian Red Cross, YogyakartaThe Disaster Risk Management Community- Asia24. Shantana R. Halder, Comprehensive Disaster Management Programme (CDMP) and UNDP, Bangladesh25. Arvinds Sinha, DRR Practitioner, India26. Angger Wibowo, Crisis Prevention and Recovery, UNDP Indonesia**Offline ContributionFurther contributions are welcome!
  3. 3. Summary of ResponsesComparative ExperiencesRelated ResourcesResponses in FullSummary of ResponsesThe query on using indigenous knowledge for disaster risk management activities yieldedinteresting responses from members of Disaster Risk Management Asia Community, SolutionExchange for Disaster Management Community India and Indonesia.Members outlined various traditional practices for early warning and other disaster managementactivities. In Orissa (India) and other parts of India, some very interesting practices are usedfor weather forecasting and disaster warning. In the Mentawai Islands (Indonesia) unusualbird songs are traditionally taken as warning signals for tsunami. Also, in Orissa (India), tribeslike Munda, Kondha, Saura, Kolha have their own way of preserving nature and coping withcatastrophes.To protect crops from floods, farmers in Tamilnadu (India) use flood resistant paddy seedalong with indigenous agricultural practices. In West Bengal and Orissa (india), coastalfarmers tie bamboo pegs and hang fried fenugreek leaves on rivers banks to save fishes fromfloods. Indigenous communities from Orissa and Andhra Pradesh (India) practice shiftingcultivation and grow drought resistant tuber crops which follow a cycle providing enough spacefor conservation.While sharing experiences, respondents laid down traditional warning signals for thefollowing hazards:Land slide: New cracks or unusual bulges in the ground or street pavements; Rapid increase instream water levels; Sticking doors and windows and sudden decrease in stream water levelsthough rain is still falling or just recently stopped.Earthquake: Different behavior of a particular variety of fish (Singhi) which comes to the top ofthe water level before an earthquake.Tornado: Sudden change in the colour of sky.Members welcomed the idea of studying indigenous knowledge and coping mechanisms. Theysuggested categorizing coping mechanisms and application of indigenous knowledge for DRRinto:• Economic; including construction of houses on raised platforms or houses build on stilts;• Social; focusing on strengthening the social network and• Physical; involving practical actionsDiscussants made interesting observations on incorporating traditional knowledge into scientificframework for disaster management. Some studies from India state that communities dependenton natural resources are closer to nature. They understand natural phenomenon and so usetraditional wisdom to manage disasters. Across countries, one can see examples of buildingwooden houses in hilly areas; netted/tied/mushroom shaped roofs in coastal belts and use ofbamboo/poles as pillars in mud houses. This is to ensure that the impact of disasters is least onassets. The variety of rice grains across different plains are signs of robust community coping
  4. 4. mechanisms. An NGO in Uttar Pradesh (India) studied and documented successful Indigenousagriculture interventions from flood affected area.Members opined that indigenous capacity does exist but it withers in inverse proportion to theexternal support systems available. Cohesive communities with strong traditional governancemechanisms (e.g. tribal communities), that are not accessed by formal systems have evolvedtheir own indigenous methods. In Tamilnadu (India) a tribal community has developed theirown systems for Early Warning, tracking floods, rescue and rehabilitation.Respondents pointed out that there have been many proven traditional technologies for DisasterRisk Reduction from across Asia. Disaster Reduction Hyperbase - Asia is a repository where thetraditional technologies are classified into three categories of Implementation OrientedTechnologies, Process Technologies, and Transferable Indigenous Knowledge (TIK).Members expressed concern that in the present context traditional coping skills and knowledgebase of the community is gradually loosing effectiveness. Due to high incidences of disasters andincreased multi level vulnerability of communities, traditional skills have not been adequatelyadapted and practiced. They felt need to look at knowledge and capacities within thecommunities and leverage on them for disaster response and preparedness.Pointing out that every region has its special characteristic, social regulations and techniques tocope with emergencies, discussants opined not applying one DRR program model to all regions.However, they suggested digging local potential and prioritize on strengthening andempowerment of social institutions.Finally members strongly recommended that agencies working on disaster risk reduction mustunderstand, respect and build upon traditional systems and practices and existing governancestructures, before attempting something that could be totally alien the communities life style.Comparative ExperiencesTamilnaduTraditional practices for monitoring river water, Cudallore (from Annie George, NGOCoordination and Resource Centre, Nagapattinam and Amit Kumar, Gorakhpur EnvironmentalAction Group (GEAG), Lucknow)A tribal community living in a flood prone area involved youth to monitor river water level andinform the community in case of a rise. They also had other systems like tying ropes across theriver to hold while crossing the flooded river and collecting money per month per family to meettheir needs during the floods. With these mechanisms in place they have managed tosuccessfully face frequent flooding.Flood resistant paddy seeds, Chennai (from Ranjan Praharaj, Focus Humanitarian AssistanceIndia, Gujarat)To protect crops from floods, farmers plant flood resistant paddy seed using indigenousagriculture practices. They broadcast the seeds in late summer and in early monsoon without anychemical fertilizer, it grows well and before the flood season its root goes deep and plantbecomes strong. Such plants grow so well that during harvesting the plant are cut into twopieces; one is used for fodder and the other part for annual renovation of thatched houses.Uttar Pradesh
  5. 5. Indigenous agriculture interventions from flood affected area, (from Gyaneshwar Singh,Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group, India)GEAG with 20 local partners collected more than 100 indigenous agricultural interventions fromthe flood prone area. These include diverse agricultural issues and help in improving livelihoodand food security of the community. Also more than 364 indigenous technical knowledgepractices on biocides, bio-manure, etc have been collected and documented. Their applicationhas given many folds benefits to the farming community specially to small and marginal farmers.OrissaTraditional coping mechanisms of tribals, Bhubaneswar (from Rudra prasanna Rath,State Documentation and Media Consultant, National Rural Health Mission, Orissa)In Orissa tribes like Munda, Kondha, Saura, Kolha have their own way of preserving the natureand coping against the distress. They follow proper cycle for shifting cultivation providing enoughspace for conservation and consider forests sacred and therefore dong destroy the environment.This has helped them conserving the environment they live in with practices which are moreancient than human kind.Using bio-indicators for disaster preparedness and warning, (from Pradeep Mohapatra,UDYAMA, Bhubaneswar)In Orissa, since ancient times community has been using bio-indicators like Tree-Tempe-tankbeing situated at elevated areas is the safest flood shelter, black ants with eggs climbing up,symbolises heavy rain or de depression and running cows indicates severity during village fire,direction of wind indicates the weather forecast and growth of wild indicates desertification.These have over the years been culturally accepted and tested for successful results.West Bengal and OrissaSaving fish cultivation from Floods. (from Ranjan Praharaj, Focus Humanitarian AssistanceIndia, Gujarat)To save fish from floods, farmers in the coastal regions put bamboo pegs in the fish pond beforethe flood and just before the pond submerge with flood water they hang fried fenugreek onthese pegs at different places in a pond putting it in thin cotton cloths. As per the farmers, if thefried fenugreek is hanged inside the pond then the fishes dont leave the pond. This considerablyreduced the risk of washing away of the fishes in flood water.Orissa and Andhra PradeshTraditional Practices to protect crops against drought. (from Ranjan Praharaj, FocusHumanitarian Assistance India, Gujarat)Indigenous communities here practice shifting cultivation which provides enough space forconservation. They cut the forest, put fire and clean the sifting cultivation site. Then they collectand keep the residues and loose boulders of the top soil layer across the slope following thecontour lines. This is a unique practice of conservation of soil and water and to resist drought.IndonesiaAnimal singing as tsunami warning. Mentawai Islands, (from Asep Moh Muhsin, TAGANA,Cianjur, Indonesia)In the island singing of the animal bilou is believed to work as a premonition of disaster. Thisphenomenon is used as an early warning sign for tsunami waves. The local community is alreadyaware of this indigenous knowledge for early warning systems and therefore bilou is protected bythe Government of Indonesia and the world community. This has significantly helped the tsunamivulnerable island community to take appropriate action on the tsunami warning. Read more
  6. 6. Traditional practices to manage Drought. Kidul Mountain, (from M. Fahrul Effendi,Indonesian Red Cross, Yogyakarta)The community in Kidul Mountain has for a very long time become familiarized to live in droughtconditions. They have their own way to adapt with the natural environment in order to meet theneeds of their daily necessity and their agricultural land. The community works together tomaintain their environment. They have also developed custom regulation for the community inorder to maintain and manage their existing water resources.Related ResourcesRecommended DocumentationIndigenous Knowledge for Disaster Risk Reduction: Good Practices and LessonsLearned from Experiences in the Asia-Pacific (from Man B Thapa, United NationsInternational Strategy for Disaster Reduction, Nepal and Alinawaz Nanjee , Focus HumanitarianAssistance India, Bhavnagar)Publication; UN ISDR Asia and Pacific; Bangkok; July 2008; English version available at (PDF, Size: 2.96 MB) Captures some existing examples of indigenous practices for several types of disasters and lessons learned in the community in the Asia-Pacific regionCoping Strategies and Early Warning Systems of Tribal People in India in the face ofNatural Disasters (from Abha Mishra, United Nations Development Programme, UNDP, Delhi)Case Study; by ILO; New Delhi; English version available (PDF, Size: 112 KB) Identifies the needs of tribal community in dealing with natural disasters, specifically on employment and protection of the most vulnerable part of the societyDraft Report: Case Study on Indigenous Knowledge for Disaster Risk Reduction inSouth Asia (from Prashant Khattri, Department of Anthropology, University of Delhi, New Delhiand P. C. Joshi, Department of Anthropology Delhi University, Delhi)Report; SDMC-ADRC; English version available at Draws out key findings of some case studies on indigenous knowledge used by communities in disaster prone areas of India Nepal and Sri LankaFrom Caroline Borchard, UNDP - Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery, New DelhiListening to Communities: A Study on Traditional Disaster Risk Reduction Activities inNorthern AfghanistanResearch Paper; ActionAid; Afghanistan; October 2008; English version available at (PDF, Size:624 KB) Explores some indigenous practices and coping mechanisms of the community in Northern Afghanistan to mitigate the effects of multi hazardsLocal Knowledge for Disaster Preparedness: A Literature ReviewPublication; by Julia Dekens; 2007; ICIMOD; Nepal; English Version available at Provides an overview of case studies on practices and framework of local knowledge in disaster management and preparedness
  7. 7. The Snake and the River Dont Run Straight: Local Knowledge on DisasterPreparedness in the Eastern Terain of NepalReport; by Julia Dekens April 2007; ICIMOD; Nepal; English Version available at Highlights the identification and documentation of local knowledge and practices for DRR as well as developing and testing an analytical framework for local knowledgeFrom Shantana R. Halder, Comprehensive Disaster Management Programme (CDMP) and UnitedNations Development Programme (UNDP), BangladeshStudy on capturing indigenous /traditional coping mechanisms in DisasterManagementTerms Of Reference; CDMP; English version available (Size: 80 KB) Enlightens the study on identification and documentation the indigenous coping practices that be used to face disaster situationsEndowed Wisdom: Knowledge of Nature and Coping with disaster in BangladeshBook review; by Hasan SHAFIE et al; CDMP; English version available (Size: 98 KB) Highlights the using of indigenous knowledge to cope with flood, flash flood, water logging, salinity intrusion, cyclone, drought and wild life disturbances in BangladeshDisaster Relief and response by Mahila Mandal (Village Women’s group) in KulluDistrict of Himachal Pradesh in Village fire at Malana (Oldest Traditional Panchayat inthe country) (from Arvinds Sinha, DRR Practitioner, India)Article; by Arvind Kumar Sinha; Mountain Forum Himalayas, Shimla; English version available (Size: 110 KB) Stipulates the significant roles of Mahila Mandal in facing with village fire and supplying the relief materials to support the victimsIndigenous Knowledge and Disaster Risk Reduction: From Practice to Policy (fromAnshu Sharma, SEEDS, New Delhi)Books; by Rajib Shaw et al.; 2009; Permission Required: Yes, Paid Publication; English version ofordering details and reviews available at Offers systematic studies that analyze the principles of indigenous knowledge in Disaster Risk Reduction activities and its correlation to the modern contextIndigenous Knowledge Disaster Risk Reduction: Policy Note (from Abhilash Panda,UNISDR Asia Pacific, Bangkok, Thailand)Publication; by Rajib Shaw et al.; Kyoto University – SEEDS; Japan; 2008; English versionavailable at (PDF, Size: 1 MB) Lays down the policy note as a guidance for mainstreaming indigenous knowledge in Disaster Risk Reduction by disaster management actors and institutions in Asian regionDocumentation of Good Practices in Community Based Disaster Risk Reduction inIndia (from Parimita Routray, Sphere India, New Delhi)Research Proposal; Sphere India-Eficor; English version available at (PDF, 240 KB) Proposes a project to identify and document the good practices and experiences on indigenous risk reduction mechanisms
  8. 8. Adaptive Capacities of Community to Cope Up with Flood Situations: Flood andLivelihood Adaptive Capacity Based Compilation (from Amit Kumar, GorakhpurEnvironmental Action Group (GEAG), Lucknow)Report; by Dr.Shiraz A.Wajih; GEAG; January 2008; English version available at (PDF, Size: 5.58 MB) Identifies some practices on coping mechanisms of the community in flood prone areas as well as other practices on indigenous livelihood interventionsBilou’s Singing Can Work as a Tsunami Early Detection (from Asep Moh Muhsin, TAGANA,Cianjur, Indonesia)Article; Antara News; 20 March 2009; Bahasa version available at Explores the indigenous knowledge of the local community of the Mentawai Islands for early warning systems of various symptomsReport of Coping Mechanisms during Bihar Flood: Indigenous Coping Strategy (fromMunish Kaushik, Association For Stimulating Know How (ASK), Gurgaon)Report; Association for Stimulating Know How (ASK), Gurgaon; English version available at (DOC, Size: 201 KB) Identifies some indigenous coping mechanisms which can be used for future action plan based on the outcome of the Community Disaster risk Reduction studyOrissa Super Cyclone, 99 (from Chandrasekhar, India Disaster Management Support Project,USAID/International Resources Group, New Delhi)Books; by Mr. M.C.Gupta,Director; National Center for Disaster Management, 2000; PermissionRequired: Yes, Paid Publication; English version available at: Lays on some essential lesson learnt from orissa super cyclone in 1999 and address some issues that need to be put in place to avoid such calamities in futureRecommended Contacts and ExpertsMr. Biswa Ranjan Behera, Secretary, Society of Development Action (SODA),Mayurbhanj (from Abha Mishra, United Nations Development Programme, UNDP, Delhi)Vill. Indapahi, Post Laxmiposi, Via Baripada, Mayurbhanj-757107, Orissa, India; Tel.: +62-6792-52841/ 78179 Recommended as the representative person who was involved in the study related to early warning system supported by ILORecommended Organizations and ProgrammesOxfam America, Boston, USA (from Annie George, NGO Coordination and Resource Centre,Nagapattinam)226 Causeway Street 5th Floor Boston, MA 02114; Tel.: +1-800-7769326; Fax: +1-617 728-2594;; Empowers organizations of indigenous peoples and minorities, increase the capacities of local leadership for DRR post-tsunami activitiesGorakhpur Environmental Action Group (GEAG), Gorakhpur, India (from GyaneshwarSingh, Research and Evaluation Professional, and Amit Kumar)
  9. 9. Post Box No. 60, 224, Purdilpur, M G College Road Gorakhpur 273001, Uttar Pradesh; Tel.: +91-551-2230004; Fax: +91-551-2230005;; Collects and works on documenting the indigenous technical knowledge practices on agricultural interventions of flood area as well as on biocides and bio-manureFrom Angger Wibowo, Crisis Prevention and Recovery, United Nations Development Programme,Indonesia*United Nations Development Programme, Jakarta, Indonesia9th Floor, Menara Thamrin Building, Jl. M.H. Thamrin Kav.3, Jakarta 10250;; Performs activities on the Safer Communities for Disaster Risk Reduction in Development to empower local governments in DRR effortsThe Indonesian National Agency for Disaster Management (BNPB), Jakarta,IndonesiaJl. Ir. H. Juanda No. 36 Jakarta Pusat; Tel.: +62-21-3458400; Fax: +62-21-3458500;; Carried out workshop on local indigenous wisdom on disaster risk reduction which included many paper presentations on DRR activities using indigenous knowledgeFrom Rudra Prasanna Rath, State Documentation and Media Consultant, National Rural HealthMission, OrissaI-Concept Initiatives, Bhubaneswar, Orissa, India4th lane, Aerodrome Area, Plot No-1140/2401, Bhubaneswar 751020, Orissa; Tel.: +91-674-2594148 Undertakes participatory exercise on traditional indigenous coping mechanisms with support from Plan InternationalPlan International, New Delhi, IndiaE-12, Kailash Colony, New Delhi 110048; Tel.: +91-11-46558484; Email:; Supports the process of identification of indigenous coping strategies to improve the preparedness of the communityNational Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM), New Delhi (from Anshu Sharma,SEEDS, New Delhi)Ministry of Home Affairs, I.P. Estate, Ring Road, New Delhi 110002; Tel.: +91-11-23702432; Fax:+91-9818997029;; Conducts workshop on Indigenous knowledge in Disaster Risk Reduction with support from United Nations Global ProgrammeFrom Parimita Routray, Sphere India, New DelhiSphere India, New DelhiBuilding No. 3, Flat No. 302/3,Kaushilya Park, Hauz Khas, New Delhi – 110016; Tel.: +91-11-146070374; Fax: +91-11-46070379; E-mail:; Identifies and document the good practice of indigenous/ traditional disaster risk reduction mechanism in disaster prone areaEFICOR, New Delhi
  10. 10. 308 Mahatta Tower, B Block Community Centre, Janakpuri, New Delhi 110058; Tel.: +91-99-10398604; Fax 25515383/4/5; Email:; Supports the documentation process of documentation of good practice in community based disaster risk reductionSurf AID Australia, Mentawai (from Asep Moh Muhsin, TAGANA, Cianjur, Indonesia)Jl. Perintis Kemerdekaan No.11 Jati Padang, West Sumatera Indonesia; Tel.: +62-751-38025;Fax: +62(0)751-841538; Email:; Performs data collection on vulnerability of the community and conduct awareness program of Indigenous knowledge in Mentawai and some disaster prone areasRecommended Portals and Information BasesFrom Anshu Sharma, SEEDS, New DelhiDisaster Reduction Hyperbase – Asian Application (DRH-Asia), NIED-JapanContact person: Hiroyuki Kameda, DRH Manager;; Tel.: +81-78-2625521; Fax: +81-78-2625526; e-mail:, Offers open and interactive access and participation and consists of database, forum, and Transferable Indigenous Knowledge Links as well as project activitiesCommunity Monitoring and Preparedness for Natural Disasters (COMPREND)Contact person: Jean J. Chu, Programme Co-Founder;; Tel.: +1-718-791-9763 / +86-136-9306-7556/ +63-919-836-5037; Promotes indigenous knowledge in Disaster Risk Reduction by sharing of community disaster experiences and advances in forecasting technologiesResponses in FullMan B Thapa, United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, NepalI would like to suggest you to kindly go through the ISDR document recently published entitled"Indigenous Knowledge on DRR". It captured many such practices. However, I am sure thatthere are still several undocumented indigenous knowledge and practices on DM/RR which needto be documented soon otherwise, we will loose them.To view the document click: (Size: 2.96 MB)Annie George, NGO Coordination and Resource Centre, NagapattinamWe did a Study for OXFAM America on Understanding the increase in capacities of localleadership for DRR post- tsunami and stumbled across some very interesting observations. Themost striking thing was that indigenous capacities do exist but atrophy in inverse proportion tothe external support systems available. In areas which are not generally accessed by formalsystems like Govt/ NGOs, especially where there is a cohesive community with strong traditionalgovernance mechanisms, like tribal communities, they have evolved their own indigenousmethods of EWS, tracking the oncoming floods, rescue and rehabilitation!!!In one flood-prone tribal community living in a flood prone area, in Cudallore, Tamil Nadu, theyhad constituted small groups of youth who would monitor the level of the rising water in the riverwith notches on a stick. When it started reaching their pre- marked danger points, the youthwould inform the rest of the community who would then gather whatever they had to and leavefor higher areas. They had a mechanism of tying ropes across the river so that they could hold
  11. 11. on to that while crossing the flooded river and not get lost in the flow or lose their direction. Theyalso had a method of collecting some money per month per family which then went into meetingtheir needs while they were without livelihood support during the floods. They have managed tosuccessfully face frequent flooding this way. The Tribal Leader has the final say in all theiractivities and this single voice od control is also useful during such emergency situations. Theconcept of a disaster management fund was seen common across both tribal communitiesstudied.On studying two slightly more developed villages, with similar vulnerabilities but different supportstructures, we found to our surprise that the village closer to a semi- urban area where theycould move during calamities, was ill prepared as far as coping mechanisms were concerned andnonchalantly replied that they move to the neighboring place and live on Government led reliefsystems till the floods recede. On the other had, the other village which did not have suchsupport systems had their escape routes planned out and the traditional governance systemstaking more responsibilities to safeguard their constituency.This led us to feel that in our haste to set up DRR systems, we do not pay attention to theexisting traditional systems and practices, thereby not only eroding their knowledge andcapacities, but also leaving them more vulnerable without our continued hand-holding support.NGOs working in DRR should make it a point to understand, respect and build upon traditionalsystems and practices and existing governance structures, before attempting something thatcould be totally alien to their style of life.Looking forward to a discussion on this extremely interesting subject, with a view to reorientourselves to what we loosely term "participatory planning processes".Abha Mishra, United Nations Development Programme, New DelhiIt is a known fact that community dependent on natural resources are closer to nature andunderstand its behaviour. This is specifically true for the tribals and farmers as their daily needsas well as livelihood is dependent on the natural resources be it for subsistence food materialslike roots, mushrooms, leafy vegetables etc or water for their crops. Old community membersliving near rivers tell us during discussion on past disaster that earlier, possibility of flooding wasmeasured by the river flow sound as there was no scientific warning mechanism. We also havemany traditional mechanism of building our houses-starting with the wooden houses in hilly areasto netted/tied/mushroom shaped roofs of coastal belts or use of bamboo/poles as pillars in mudhouses to ensure that the impact is least on the assets. The variety of rice grains across thedifferent plains of India are also signs of robust coping mechanism of the community to ensuresubsistence harvest. But as you have asked for a study that specifically relates to early warningsystem, Please refer to a study supported by ILO way back in 2000-2001 in Durgapur, WestBengal and Mayurbhanj, Orissa which looked at the issues which you would like to focus on.(Clickhere to view report: (Size: 112 KB).You could also like to contact Mr. Bishwa Ranjan Behra, Secretary, Society ofDevelopment Action, Mayurbhanj who was involved in this project.Prashant Khattri, Department of Anthropology, University of Delhi, New DelhiPlease visit the site of SAARC Disaster Management Center. You will find a draft report onIndigenous Knowledge for Disaster Risk Reduction in South Asia. Here is the link: Borchard, UNDP - Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery, New Delhi
  12. 12. Regarding your question on available research, a study was also done on this subject inAfghanistan last year by Action Aid and DIPECHO: Listening to Communities: A study ontraditional disaster risk reduction activities in Northern Afghanistan (Size: 624KB).There are also some further publications produced by ICIMOD on this subject.Local Knowledge for Disaster Preparedness: A literature Review (2007), ICIMOD, Julia Dekens. Snake and the River Dont Run Straight: Local Knowledge on Disaster Preparedness in theEastern Terai of Nepal (2007) regards and best wishes for your study.P. C. Joshi, Department of Anthropology Delhi University, DelhiThe Saarc Disaster Management Centre has prepared a very detailed document on the subject ofIndigenous Knowledge in DRR with field based case studies from India, Nepal and Sri Lanka.This centre is also preparing a tool kit for investigating Indigenous Knowledge. The SDMC reportis available at: (Size: 2.96 MB)Alinawaz Nanjee Focus Humanitarian Assistance India, BhavnagarPlease find UNISDR link there is a good material on indigenous knowledge and DRR: digenous_Knowledge-DRR/Indigenous_Knowledge-DRR.pdf (Size: 2.96 MB)Chandrasekhar, India Disaster Management Support Project, USAID/InternationalResources Group, New DelhiThanks Annie for sharing your study findings. Infact, this is my experience when I wasconducting a study in association with Prof. Arbind Sinha, ISRO on early warning communicationsystem for hydro-meteorological disasters and extreme climatic events supported by USAID lastyear. This is an important finding and needs attention of all policy planners, decision makers andagencies implementing disaster risk reduction and preparedness programmes.Similarly, a study after the Orissa Super Cyclone 99 conducted by Roorkie Univeristy that thetraditional housing design is also cyclone resistant and cost effective that needs strengtheningwith inputs from modern science and technology. Inspite of this finding, the state governmentwent ahead with modern housing during rehabilitation phase that has led to gradual eroding oftraditional housing knowledge and skill as well as coping mechanism of local coastal community.However, I look forward to learn more from you and others from their experiences.Gyaneshwar Singh, Research and Evaluation Professional, Gorakhpur EnvironmentalAction Group, IndiaThe raised issue has great importance. The role of indigenous technical knowledge in tacklingemerging disaster challenges has been recognized by Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group,Gorakhpur (GEAG). Realizing their importance (resistance of surviving in threatful situation,economic profitability and replicability etc), GEAG in collaboration with 20 local partner
  13. 13. organizations in Eastern Uttar Pradesh, has collected more than 100 indigenous agriculturalinterventions of flood area. These interventions include diverse agricultural issues and help inimproving livelihood and food security of the community. Addition to it, more than 364indigenous technical knowledge practices on biocides, bio-manure, etc have been collected anddocumented. These practices works effectively on agricultural crops and livestock. Theirapplication has given many folds benefits to the farming community specially to small andmarginal farmers. These benefits include improving soil fertility, reducing market dependency,increasing income and self-dependency etc. Large numbers of peoples have enjoyed the benefitsof these practices in improving their socio-economic status.Some flood related practices collected from other state, have been tested in this area and foundsuccessful and beneficial.The compilation of indigenous technical knowledge practices of drought prone area is underprocess.These practices can be found by contacting R. Halder, Comprehensive Disaster Management Programme (CDMP) andUnited Nations Development Programme (UNDP), BangladeshThis is great to know that you are planning to document the indigenous knowledge with regardto early warning, coping and adaptation practices in the field of disaster risk management.Recently we conducted the same and produced a book which is under peer review. We consideran all hazard approach and initially made a scan of all available secondary information whichhelped us identified the geographical location, the reported good practices and the agenciessupporting/contributing towards scaling up those good practices for survey. We did an efficiencyanalysis of the practices and found no clash with the science rather these many of the years ofpractices are now validated through scientific explanations. Many of the indigenous knowledgeand practices have been scaled up with NGO interventions. To read the TOR (Size: 80 KB) and the summary of thebook here. 98 KB).Arvinds Sinha, DRR Practitioner, IndiaPlease refer to a document on relief response by the local community for your discussion -basically response from a village womens group here: . (Size: 110 KB)Anshu Sharma, SEEDS, New DelhiThis is a very interesting and useful query raised by Bibhu.I would like to share the following resources in addition to those already shared:• DRH-Asia (Disaster Reduction Hyperbase - Asia), a multi-agency initiative led by NIED (National Research Institute for Earth Science and Disaster Prevention), Japan. The DRH website ( is a repository of proven technologies for Disaster Risk Reduction from across Asia. The website is classified into three categories: Implementation Oriented Technologies, Process Technologies, and Transferable Indigenous Knowledge (TIK). The TIK link and the cases therein will be of interest to you. You are also encouraged to use the given template to share your own case studies through this platform.
  14. 14. • Nova Publishers are bringing out a book titled `Indigenous Knowledge and Disaster Risk Reduction: From Practice to Policy this summer. It puts together case studies from the region and also outlines sectoral strategies for mainstreaming of indigenous knowledge in DRR. You can see the link at :• COMPREND (Community Monitoring and Preparedness for Natural Disasters: built upon the earlier UNGP programme for promoting indigenous knowledge for disaster reduction. It compiled good practices from China and other places, where thousands of lives could be saved when local authorities took action on warnings based on indigenous knowledge. A workshop was organised by UNGP at NCDM (now NIDM) a few years ago, and you can perhaps find more information there.I feel it will really help if members share evidences of indigenous knowledge having been of usein specific instances. Such evidences are usually undocumented and anecdotal, and thus notgiven much importance. It will, however, be of great service if we can bring stories, eveninformal ones, together and then seek some ways of going out to the field and validating them.Platforms such as DRH Asia can be used very effectively for such validation and subsequentdissemination.Looking forward to an engaging discussion on this query,Rudra prasanna Rath, State Documentation and Media Consultant, National RuralHealth Mission, OrissaWhat seems to be interesting to me is the traditional knowledge of the Tribals/ indigenous peoplewho have their own set of devised mechanism to cope against disasters like Drought, Flood,Cyclone and other natural extremes.Three Years Back i-Concept Initiatives Bhubaneswar with Support from Plan international hasconducted a participatory exercise to bring out traditional indigenous coping mechanism of thesix selected tribes in Orissa. The selected tribes were Munda, Kondha, Saura, Kolha, ganda etc.Some of the important findings of the study are as follows;• Tribals are having their own way of preserving the nature and coping against the distress,• Even the most destructive practices like shifting cultivation follows a cycle providing enough space for conservation hence is not a reason for deforestation,• Sacredness is attached to the forest, water and land masses in almost all the tribes to provoke fear among the destroyers of the environment,• Some of the ancient water and land conservation methods are more ancient than the present civilized generation,• Nature plays a vital role in conserving the natural resources and save people during the distress even though nature creates disasters to check the population growth rate.This is for information of all concernedAbhilash Panda, UNISDR Asia Pacific, Bangkok, ThailandWe recently came up with a Policy Note for Indigenous Knowledge in DRR. Please refer to thelink: (Size: 1 MB) to view thefileH.S. Sharma, Dr. K M Modi Institute of Engineering, Ghaziabad
  15. 15. For your information no ONGES (the tribal people who live in Andaman and Nicobar) died intsunami as all have lived their for thousand of years and have been warned to move away fromthe sea as soon as they notice calm sea, it is only so called educated people died in tsunami. Noelephant died in tsunami in Srilanka as they have knowledge and moved upwards as soon asthey observed the noise.Parimita Routray, Sphere India, New DelhiIt is good to learn that your organisation is planning to conduct a study on indigenous knowledgeon various coping mechanism and early warning systems. I hope the learning and findings of thestudy are shared widely upon completion in different forums so that agencies or practitionersworking in the field of disaster risk reduction can use the findings and incorporate in theirrespective programmes on DRR.As per my understanding, the coping mechanisms and application of indigenous knowledge forDRR can be categorized into three – economic, social and physical, so your study may try tocapture all of them. The economic coping mechanisms could be construction of houses on raisedplatforms or houses build on stilts. The social coping mechanism focuses on strengthening thesocial network and physical coping mechanisms involves practical actions. And as Indigenousknowledge is culture specific, and represents people’s lifestyle, so dissemination and applicationof the knowledge is often a challenging issue and need to be contextualized.Sphere India in partnership with EFICOR is also implementing a project in similar field. Under theproject, we are trying to identify scalable models of risk reduction mechanisms(indigenous/traditional or contextualized), that has potential for replication in disaster pronecommunities and document the good practices and experiences that has helped in reducing riskand strengthening resilience of different communities which face cyclones, droughts, earthquakesand floods. Some of the good practices will be published into a compendium and then widelydisseminated. In this relation, we are inviting good practices from the practitioners and agenciesworking in field of disaster risk reduction. More information about our project can be accessed at We have received good practices and some of them arefocused on promotion of indigenous knowledge for disaster risk reduction. We are in the processof screening the entries and it will be followed by an in-depth documentation. We will be in aposition to share the information once the good practices are finalised.Amit Kumar, Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group (GEAG), LucknowCommunity’s Capacity to cope with Flood(Experience of GEAG in flood prone area of Eastern UPThe ‘Purvanchal’ or eastern Uttar Pradesh covers about 39 percent area of the state which hasagriculture as a major source of livelihood. Flood is annual calamity of the region. The soil is veryfertile as the area is situated amidst the plains of north east and Himalayan Terai which has anetwork of Mountain Rivers. The unpredictable nature of the river flow makes most of the areavulnerable for floods.Due to environmental imbalance in past few years the flood has become more frequent. Theglobal climate change is also reflecting here. The threat of hazards in the region is increasing duechange in the monsoon cycle resulting in drought and water-logging. The imbalance is such thatheavy downpour in a short period brings flash floods, causing water logging and destroys Rabicrops while; on the other hand, insufficient rain perishes Kharif crops.
  16. 16. The livelihood and food security of the region is endangered due to increased flood frequencyand natural imbalance. This adversely affects production and productivity. This further culminatesinto the migration of the population, increased unemployment and also increase in the calamity.Not only this, the imbalance is affecting the life of females also. While the male populationmigrates it leaves behind the huge burden of looking after the land and other immovable on theshoulder of women. This makes them more vulnerable towards malnutrition and they fall prey tovarious diseases.How the community is coping with?Community always accustom with nature in order to deal with calamities. The knowledge andadaptive strategies of the local community to deal with calamities is worth-praising. The peopleof this region have accustomed themselves with the calamity by adopting appropriate agriculturetechniques and strategies. The flood has badly hit the agriculture-based rural economy of theregion. Despite this, the local knowledge and resilience of the community has helped them tocope up with hazards. However, in spite of immense potential such practices and local knowledgewas confined to very limited area and known to very few people. Gorakhpur EnvironmentalAction Group (GEAG), a state level resource organization, felt the need of identifying anddocumenting such indigenous knowledge of community in order to develop a pool of potentiallivelihood practices within the region. The organization, with the help of 20 local voluntaryorganizations conducted a research in 7 most flood affected districts. It had found that thefarmers in these districts were not only coping up the situation by changing the agriculturaltechniques, land and water management and preparedness activities, but they were alsoengaged in innovative practices of advocacy with stake holders. More than 100 practices relatedto agricultural livelihood adaptation and preparedness strategies were documented by GEAG andpartners and propagated in the entire region to make people aware on such knowledge. Someidentified practices, in brief, are as follows-Before floods:• Turanta (early variety): Turanta is also an early variety of paddy. It can also tolerate conditions of drought and flood but its seeds are not readily available. It is not useful for heavily waterlogged areas as its plants are very small.• Maize It can be used as cash crop after losses due to flood. It can be consumed in many ways apart from as fodder. The crop season is from April to June and requires low input. It is reaped before the onset of floods so the crop loss is negligible.• Musk : It can be implanted in the low lying areas near the rivers, where the silt is deposited after receding of flood water. The sandy land near the river is otherwise useless and no crop can be taken on this land. The protection of crop from stray cattle is important because there is no fodder for them after floods.• Narendra 97 (Early variety of paddy): Narendra 97 grows in 90 to 100 days. As the variety is less sensitive to the sunlight, can tolerate the scorching heat of May-June and demand less water.During floods/deep water:• Barseem : It grows in marshy land which is abundant during floods. This gives dual benefit – the otherwise waste land is utilized and the scarcity of fodder can be avoided.• Trapa Cultivation- Trapa, usually called Singharah, is cultivated in stagnant waters. It has religious value as it is mainly eaten on fasting occasion, festivals, etc. In some districts of UP, people often cultivate this crop in lakes and water logged areas.• Desariya Paddy- It is hardy, traditional variety of paddy that grows on clayey soil and is able to withstand high water inundation for as long as six months as well as drought like condition. It can withstand even with 10 ft water inundation.After floods:
  17. 17. • Kulthi (with Practice and Interview): Kulthi is a pulse crop. It’s a creeping plant like Moong and Urad. It does not need plenty of water or manure and not even any care. Kulthi can be grown on infertile land. It gives high yield. It has medicinal properties and beneficial in curing kidney stone.• Boro Paddy (with Practice and Interview): It is not possible to take most of Rabi crops on low-lying land. But weather resistant Boro paddy can be grown on these lands. Despite requiring high labour, it is high yielding variety that can be grown in standing water.• Arkil Peas- Arkil peas grow well in the fields where floods affect the paddy crops. It does not only provide food (both green and dried/preserved for times of scarcity) but also the income. It is a fast growing variety. Other Practices-• Duck rearing -Apart from agriculture other agro-based activities like duck rearing is also a means of income generation. It help minimizing the losses due to flood. The farmers are also adopting plantation and storage of fodder as an effective technique.• Grain Bank- The innovative practice of grain bank is being adopted at the community level. It gives food security as well as help in coping with the scarcity of seeds. The practice is being particularly adopted by the women farmer. This effectively minimizes the damage due to floods and other calamities.• Land and water management- Apart from these, many efforts have been made other than agriculture like land and water management, calamity preparedness, and advocacy on public issues. These efforts are worth-knowing as they give inspiration for integrated development and to use local knowledge. Preventing soil erosion, participatory sand casting from the field, improving old drainage structures and constructing new ones are some of the examples at community levels that prove their efficiency to mitigate the disaster impact.From such community level initiatives it is apparent that people indigenously use a mix of theirlocal and externally gathered knowledge, as required. This knowledge together with theirgenerational experience enables community to anticipate events, make accurate decisions ofcropping and prepare themselves accordingly. Several practices are visible at local level hencethere is strong need to bring out such practices and disseminate largely for wide adoption.Download the english document (short version of original) from- www.geagindia.orgHerriansyah, Indonesian Red Cross, Medan – Sumut, IndonesiaI am so excited to receive many inputs on this topic.In my opinion, those who are living in the disaster prone area should be responsible to minimizethe impact of future disaster. Yet it is often forgotten to improve the capacity of the neighboringareas close to disaster prone area.I assume that this is a classical concept and attributed to our mind. But we also sometimes forgetabout it. For instance: when disaster hit NAD and Nias, Medan district which is on the border tothe two areas should be part of the aid center. The smoothness of this operation depends on thepreparedness of Medan district at that moment.Eventually, the capacity of the neighboring disaster prone area will also minimize the impact ofthe disaster.Angger Wibowo, Crisis Prevention and Recovery, United Nations DevelopmentProgramme, IndonesiaWith support from UNDP through the Safer Communities for Disaster Risk Reduction inDevelopment, the Indonesian National Agency for Disaster Management (BNPB) conducted aworkshop on local indigenous wisdom on disaster risk reduction in February 2009. During this
  18. 18. workshop, several DRR activities using the indigenous knowledge were presented. Please findattached some papers presented in the workshop that might be relevant to this query.Credits and intellectual property right of the papers remains with the person/organizationpresenting the papersPradeep Mohapatra, UDYAMA, BhubaneswarIt is a good discussion.There are few bio-indicator that still community is using since ancient. these knowledges arebeing used during disaster warning, development and forecast and also few things that locallypeople are using as one of toll ,instrument , experience ,belief even few are culturally accepted.few things am giving from Orissa perspective:• Tree-Tempe-tank- it is culturally accepted not only for community cohesion, but it unites whole range, it is the place to resolve conflicts, this place has a binding factor for rituals, this place is very safest place to accommodate during floods as usually this places are high and elevated areas, , the leaf of tree like bela or pipal is totally medicated,• during village fire people do take rest till the house is restored• black ants with eggs climbs up - this symbolises there must be rain continuity or dedepression• if cows are running fast that indicates there will be severity during village fire• cockroaches , rats other reptiles are indicating regarding floods and submergence of houses• dogs barking without any thing it shows there will ham to house• wind from south that indicates the rain will be wiped out• wind from north indicated there will be cool• wind from west indicates heavy heat wave• wind from east indicates rain will be nearer.• poi leaf indicates the toxic element in air as I have noticed and validated at Kendrapada during my CARE days when OSWAL now PPL releases toxic elements to air.• Wild dates (local called bana khajur) indicates the desertification, because that plant comes out at the last stage when every thing from soil strata goes out• even in coastal mangrove area may be different but looks like ban kahur come out when the rich mangroves washes out• if there will be 100 days rain there will be severe drought, if 50 days there will be floods and crops can damaged out flash floods, if there will be 80 or 96 days rain there will be good harvest as per loka kathaThis are from community dialects, still few things are allocable and people are believing it. This isthe part of life and livelihoods of country men.Ranjan Praharaj, Focus Humanitarian Assistance India, GujaratIt’s really an interesting subject. To my understanding, the query needs response on IndigenousKnowledge on Early Warning as well as Disaster Risk Management practices.I would suggest contributing to the query and share knowledge/experiences specific to particularhazards and separately for early warning and other coping mechanisms in accordance with DMcycle / the pre, during and post disaster situations.Further, it will be clearer to present the indigenous knowledge on early warning separately as (i)warning generation and (ii) warning dissemination.Some of the Indigenous Knowledge is given below:
  19. 19. A. Warning generation,Land slide:• New cracks or unusual bulges in the ground or street pavements.• Rapid increase in creek water levels.• Sticking doors and windows, and visible open spaces indicating jambs and frames out of plumb.• Sudden decrease in creek water levels though rain is still falling or just recently stopped etc.Earthquake:• Different behavior of a particular variety of fish (Singhi) which comes to the top of the water level before an earthquake, but this variety of fish usually stays inside the mud in sweet water which has two poisonous sharp pins at both the side of its head.Tornado:• Immediate changed colour of the sky.B. Warning Dissemination:Indigenous knowledge and practices of warning dissemination are well kwon to all of us. Some ofwhich are, drum beating, playing buffalo’s horn etc.C. Some Indigenous Coping Mechanisms:• Flood/water logging: Most of the members have already highlighted the flood/water logging resistant paddy seed varieties which were used by the farmers in the low lying fields. But, associated to it were the indigenous agriculture practices also. As per the farmers, such variety of seeds are broadcasted (not transplanted) in late summer and the seedlings sustains after struggling with extreme heat and sunshine. Different methods of broadcasting are bunch sowing, line sowing and normal hazard sowing etc. In early monsoon without any chemical fertilizer, it grows well and before the flood season its root goes deep and the plants became very strong. Such paddy variety plants grow so well that at the time of harvesting the farmers cut the plant into two pieces,’ the top part after harvesting is used for fodder and the bottom part, for annual renovation of the thatched houses. I have seen some varieties of such paddy seeds are showcased in the seeds bank of MS Swaminathan Foundation, Chennai.• Flood is a big threat for sweet water fish cultivation. To save their fish in the pond, some coastal region farmers in WB and Orissa put bamboo pegs in the fish pond before the flood and just before the pond submerges with flood water they hang fried fenugreek (methi) on these pegs at different places in a pond putting it in thin cotton cloths. As per the farmers, if the fried fenugreek will be hanged inside the pond then the fishes will not left the pond thereby the risk of washing away of the fishes in flood water will be reduced.• Draught: Rudra has already stated about the shifting cultivation practice of indigenous communities in south Orissa and North AP, which follows a cycle providing enough space for conservation. The most interesting fact is that once they cut the forest, put fire and clean the sifting cultivation site, the next process is to collect and keep the residues and loose boulders of the top soil layer across the slope following the contour lines. This is a unique practice of conservation of soil and water and to resist with drought. Besides, the mixed crop cultivation in the sifting cultivation site (including several varieties of pulses) is another best practice of the people.• Cultivation of drought resistant tuber crops (especially Katha Kanda/Ram Kanda variety) in high lands is regularly practiced in the same area. In case of sever draught, if the main crops
  20. 20. (paddy and ragi etc) fail then the farmers use it as alternate food. At present, most of the chips (snacks item) found in the market are made of the same crop. To meet the food need most of the indigenous community also use date palm juice and salpa juice. In most critical cases they cut the salpa tree, collects its inner parts, dry it, make its powder and use it as main food after boiling with water for some times. One such plant meets the food need of 20 families about one month.• Draught and land slide: The knowledge, skill and practice of contour bounding for soil and water conservation and land terracing and shoulder bonding to control land sliding, using dry stones/ loose boulders is also a unique practice in the same area. Generations old model patches are available at present with such type of measures which are really examples for technical experts of soil and water conservation. The techniques applied for construction of such structures and to maintain slope of the shoulder bonds etc. are more than that of an engineered design.Besides the above, community grain bank/seed bank, creation of community fund etc are alsosome of the coping practices at most of the rural village.Kedareswar Choudhury, Darabar Sahitya Sansad, Khurda, OrissaIndigenous knowledge and traditional coping mechanism are quite important for the communityfighting the disasters. It is rather more important in case of communities facing disastersregularly. There have been lot of discussions on the issue. But friends, this aspect seems to beweakening and loosing priorities in our planning process, in the era of increasing occurance ofnatural and man made disasters. This is due to diferreent reasons like• The degree of occurence and impact of disasters have increased considerably.• The livelihood pattern and the surrounding environment of the communities is changing due to development interventions by the state as well as the by the effect of climate change.• The traditinal community life is under a process of change from socio economic and political front.Therefore the traditional coping skill and knowlegde base of the community, which were onceappropriate to combat the disasters successfully, are either gradually loosing effectiveness in thepresent context of high incidence of disasters, or have not been adequately adapted andpractised to reduce the increased and multi level vulnerability of the communities.There is a need to look at these knowlegde and capacities of the communities in the changingcontext of the community life and nuturing the skills with adaptabilityAsep Moh Muhsin, TAGANA, Cianjur, IndonesiaThank you for the opportunity given to me.I would like to contribute with some information about the work of disaster detection, usingIndigenous knowledge. Here I will introduce bilou, (Hylobates klossii) an animal similar toendemic primates, from the Mentawai Islands, situated on the western coast of Sumatra. It has aherediatary singing voice. The local residents believe that the sound of bilou’s singing can workas a premonition of disaster. This phenomenon could therefore be used as an early warning signfor tsunami waves.The awareness program of Indigenous knowledge on Mentawai was initially socialized by SurfAidautralia, an international NGO involved in disaster aid. SurfAid has been implementing theprogram in Mentawai since 2007 after the tsunami in Aceh 26th of December 2004, and alsoincluding disaster-prone areas.
  21. 21. In some areas on the Mentawai Islands the local community is already aware of their indigenousknowledge for early warning systems of various symptoms of natural disasters that dominatesthe tropical forest. The community believes that when they hear the singing sound coming fromthe creature with the special melody, it is a sign of danger.Bilou is a type of gibbon-like primate, unique endemic only found on the Mentawai Islands. Thebody of bilou is full of hair and has a white-feathered head with black eyes. As an endemicprimate, bilou is protected by the Government of Indonesia and the world community, includingthe locals of Mentawai.From generation to generation, the locals of Mentawai have prohibited the hunting of bilous. Inaddition to disaster detection, the voice of bilou could also work foreshadowing, to stop activitiesin the forest of Mentawai. If people are hunting and then hear the singing, they will stop becauseif they proceed there will be danger.At present, Mentawai is a tsunami-prone area. From SurfAids data collection, it is found thatabout 16,000 residents around the Mentawai Islands living in coastal areas which is vulnerable totsunamis.Quoted from .Hopefully it will be beneficiary for all of us.Nursyamsu Kusuma, UNORC, Takengon, IndonesiaWith this opportunity, I would like to share a few stories/ experiences from when I was a child,related to Indigenous knowledge for DRR.Kecobong is a small sub district of the Purbalingga District on Central Java. Currently, thecommunity is categorized as an “urban” community, but they are still far behind compared toother developed sub district on the Java islands. Until now, most of the community work asfarmers. The community’s settlement has a rice field and farms which are separated by a rivernamed Pekacangan River. Consequently every time they work they need to cross the river inorder to reach their work places. Another alternative is to turn around the upper course of theriver which is very far away. At present there is a bridge, which is good enough, but the distanceis about 5 km from their villages (inefficient in terms of time).I still remember when I went to my friend’s house in 1994. It was a rainy season at the time andthe community checked whether the water in the river would overflow or not by dipping theirhand into the water. If the water felt warm, it was a sign that the river would overflow. Theywere watchful and abandoned their plan to cross the river when going to the farm or rice field.They would also warn their kids not to swim in the river. When the water felt warm and theywere already at the farm or on the rice field, they would wait until the floods stopped, finding outby dipping their hand to check if the water was still warm or not. Sometimes some of thecommunity stayed at loom up (gazebo) and lodge (small house) that they have constructed intheir farm and rice field. There were also some communities that preferred to turn around theriver if they would have some important things to do at home. To make sure that the “warmsensation” on their hand was not deceitful, they would try it repeatedly until they definitely feltthe warmth which indicated that the big overflow or flood would occur.This is only one of many stories, showing that different communities in the region have their ownlocal customs/ indigenous knowledge to respond to the natural circumstance and the naturalcalamity around them. Their ancestors introduced these self defense efforts as a heritage and it
  22. 22. has become a custom for the community. Every region has their special characteristics which willbe different from others, in order to survive when faced with the challenges in life. We shouldtherefore not apply one DRR program model to all regions as every region has its own potential“social regulation”.The firm step is acting as the correlative and supportive constellation if DRR programs don’tgeneralize its concepts and its programs implementations. However, what needs to be done firstis digging the local potential and prioritizes the strengthening and empowerment of socialinstitutions to become the social capital which is owned by each region.The program packages should be pointed towards supporting and empowering the existence ofthe potential of local community through advocacy activity for local government with aim to setlocal policies.Adharianti Septuina , NGO Mitra Peduli, Banten, IndonesiaSometimes we do not realize that there are types of animals that could assist us with earlywarning signals for future natural disasters. Animals have an excess in terms of their five senses.Some animals have a high sensitivity towards sound, temperature, vibration, touch, etc. Thissensitivity enables them to identify the disaster before it occurs.For instance, birds, dogs, elephants, etc have the ability to hear potential tsunamis that couldfollow an earthquake under sea. After the earthquake these animals will act with an unusual oreven excessive behavior. We can by observing these animals behavior become more aware onfuture disasters.M. Fahrul Effendi, Indonesian Red Cross, YogyakartaWith this opportunity, I would like to share my experience on the indigenous knowledge of thelocal community in Kidul Mountain when facing droughts. The community in Kidul Mountain hasfor a very long time become familiarized to live in drought conditions. They have their own wayto adapt with the natural environment in order to meet the needs of their daily necessity andtheir agricultural land. The community in Kidul Mountain is working together to maintain theirenvironment. They have also developed custom regulation for the community in order tomaintain and manage their existing water resources.Indeed, even today the community in the Kidul Mountain area persists on developing andimproving their indigenous knowledge which has become a local culture in managing theenvironment. There is a lot of indigenous knowledge used when managing the environment inthis region, which is used and integrated into the community program to manage the area andthe water resources but also to expand tourism in the Kidul Mountain areaFrom this experience of Kidul Mountain, we should perhaps take some of the lessons learned,and try to ensure that our programs are synergized with the existing indigenous knowledge ofthe community. Many thanks to all who contributed to this query!If you have further information to share on this topic, please send it to Solution Exchange for theDisaster Management Community in India at or with the subject heading “Re: [se-drm] Query: Using indigenous knowledge fordisaster risk management activities - Experience; Example. Additional Reply.”Disclaimer: In posting messages or incorporating these messages into synthesized responses,the UN accepts no responsibility for their veracity or authenticity. Members intending to use or
  23. 23. transmit the information contained in these messages should be aware that they are relying ontheir own judgment. Copyrighted under Creative Commons License “Attribution-NonCommercial- ShareAlike 2.5”. Re-users of this material must cite as their source Solution Exchange as well as the item’s recommender, if relevant, and must share any derivative work with the Solution Exchange Community. Solution Exchange is a UN initiative for development practitioners in India. For more information please visit