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FEATURE: Integrating indigenous knowledge into disaster risk reduction strategies


Changes in climate can alter the frequency and intensity of natural events which, when combined with poor social conditions and weak public policies, can easily turn into disasters. Therefore it is difficult to talk about adaptation to climate change without addressing disaster risk reduction (DRR).

Indigenous communities have long developed practices to reduce their vulnerability to natural events, thereby increasing their resilience to these events. Therefore, indigenous people should be considered as not just beneficiaries but as active participants in the design of strategies for adaptation and DRR. They can contribute important lessons to these fields.

A study conducted by CARE on “Harmonized Perspectives” explores how the ancestral knowledge of indigenous peoples of Central America can be used to address DRR and climate change adaptation.

The study report defines disaster risk reduction and climate change and outlines indigenous people’s perspectives of both. Using a model to explore the synergies between these fields, the report authors highlight the value of indigenous knowledge and local actions to counter the negative effects of climate change. For example, one traditional perspective emphasises that risks should not be considered in isolation but understood as an interaction between the universe and living things.

The study also provides examples of the successful harmonization of local wisdom with scientific knowledge that have been used in adaptation and DRR projects. In general, the report provides a good base of information about the interface between indigenous knowledge, climate change adaptation and DRR.

Written by Patricia León, Project Manager for CDKN Latin America and the Caribbean

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