Traditional Knowledge and Environmental Change in Vanuatu
This thesis investigates the extent to which traditional knowledge is used by local people on North Pentecost (NP) in Vanuatu to adjust to natural environmental changes. It explores how traditional knowledge (TK), as part of original belief system and values, can be incorporated in the development of community-based adaptation strategies. Usng a qualitative research approach, this study uses individual semi-structured interview to collect primary data in the field, and thematical analysis was employed to identify evidence of traditional knowledge used by the indigenous people by process of coding and themes. The results proved that most aspect of traditional knowledge has values and belief system rooted in the local culture of local communities that helped them to sustain and adjust to changes in the natural environment. For example, the traditional knowledge indicators of faunas and floras, atmospheric and astronomical conditions were used by local people to predict short (weather) and long-term (climate) changes in the natural environment. Moreover, TK has an enormous capacity for adaptive management strategies that are essential for adaptation to weather and climate (variabilities and changes) extremes.
Three key components of TK were identified; 1) Facts and Information (Environmental monitoring), 2) Management strategies and practices (DRR and CCA), 3) beliefs, and worldviews that connect to their knowledge system of the natural environment . Futhermore this study also demostrates local people perception on the observed change (environmental and social change) within their communities.
Vanuatu like any other Pacific island countries are exposed to current environmental changes (climate variabilities and changes) such as in tropical cyclones strenght and frequency and ENSO phenomena (El-Nino/La Nina conditions). The findings of this thesis showed that traditional knowledge has significantly involved in adapting to the changes throught weather and climate predictions and the adaptative management strategies used to reduce risk and adapt to the extreme changes. TK should be used in isolated as tool to gain awareness from wider communities before it could be incooporated with western knowledge. Also, policy must regoinised TK as important part of adaptation .
Key Words: Traditional Knowledge, Adaptation, Climate Change, Weather, Climate, Natural Environment, Vanuatu, Environmental Change, North Pentecoast
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Figure 1. 1 Map of Vanuatu and Study Site
Figure 3. 1 Map of the Pacific Islands
Figure 4. 1 Map of Vanuatu with study island (red).
Figure 4.2 Vanuatu Governing Structure (Insert: Village Council Structure)
Figure 5. 1 Semi-Structured Interview process, researcher with participants at their homes.
Figure 5.2 (A) Initial Coding. (B) Grouping of Codes under main themes
Figure 5.3 Phases of Thematic Analysis
Figure 6. 1 Fauna used as indicators of extreme weather events
Figure 6. 2 Flora indicators used for forecasting extreme weather of climate variability and extreme weather events
Figure 6. 3 Traditional Cyclone Shelters (Gamali).
Figure 6. 4 Green coconut leaves place on local houses on Vao Island in Vanuatu during Tropical Cyclone Hola in March 2018
Figure 6. 5 Caves and rock holes used by local people of Matasso Island during Tropical Cyclone Pam in March 2015
Figure 6. 6 A cassava patch prepared for a cyclone in Vanuatu.
Figure 6. 7 Some traditional Food crops and Plants used for Extreme Weather and Climate events.
Figure 6. 8 Typical Agroforestry Farm Plot in Vanuatu
Figure 6. 9 Vovohe (Ficus wassa) tree.
Figure 6. 10 Present of Namele leaves indicates restrictions to harvesting of Marine Resources.
Figure 6. 11 Gaironmaho (Oxera vanuatuensis) with its yellow flowers attached to the stem.
Figure 6. 12 Sources of water used during droughts
Figure 6. 13 Tanks used for water storage
Figure 6. 14 Streams and small rivers as source of water for Villages in Aligu District
Figure 7. 1 Observed Change visible along Coastline at Laone Village (Ahivo District)
Figure 7. 2 Dual governance structures
Figure 7. 3 Traditional Village governing Structure of Agatoa Village in Gaitunhinleo Ward Council, North Pentecost
Figure 8. 1 Average Annual Precipitation for Pekoa, 1988 to 2010
Figure 8. 2 Mean Annual Minimum Temperature for Pekoa, 1988 to 2010
Figure 8. 3 Mean Annual Maximum Temperature for Pekoa, 1988 to 2010
Figure 8. 4 Multiple Roles of culture in Community -Based Adaptation……………
Figure 8. 5 Trend of Traditional Knowledge Uses and Understanding in Vanuatu………
Figure 8. 6 Participatory Methods for Formalizing TK as tools for Community-Based Climate Change Adaptation
Table 2. 1 TEK Categories for Wiriwoong…………………………….
Table 4. 1 Climate Change Issues and Adaptation programmes since 2007 (VanGov)
Table 5. 1 List of Interviewees (coded) and Interview Date
Table 5.2 Themes identified through thematic analysis.
Table 6. 1 Faunas as indicators of short-term (daily and weekly) weather conditions
Table 6. 2 The behaviour of fauna as indicators of tropical cyclone events
Table 6.3 Use of flora behaviour as indicators for extreme weather events
Table 6.4 Atmospheric Conditions as Indicators of Short -Term Environmental Change
Table 6.5 Atmospheric Conditions as Indicators of Long-Term Environmental Change
Table 6.6 Astronomical and marine conditions as indicators of short-term variations in weather conditions
Table 6.7 Traditional Food and Management Practices for Weather and Climate Extremes.
Table 6. 8 Water sources and Management Practices
Table 8. 1 Proposed Key concept from Participatory Approach
|RAGA TERMS||English Definition|
|Mwaragi||Native name for Ground Dove (Emerald Dove)|
|Ahea||The leftover of fallen fruit of Namabe collected and safely stored as source of food to be eaten after a disasters events such as cyclone.|
|Raramemea||The Season of dry periods usually happens around July and August.|
|Tumun Gai||Large tree roots that coiled around completely that can hold water|
|Waibilake||Native name for Northerly wind direction|
|Gadue||Native name for Westerly wind direction|
|Dueliu||Native name for Easterly wind direction|
|Bwatgahuna||Native name for Southerly wind direction|
|Rarasi||Native name for North-easterly winds direction|
|Waibilake ata vui||Native name for North westerly winds direction|
|Maliudu||Maliudu is shallow or lower areas or small valleys that plants and food crops such as leaf lap-lap, bananas, wild yams and other root crops are grown here and are protected or sheltered from strong winds of cyclones.|
|Gamali||Traditional built community hall /cyclone shelter|
|Teretabwubwu||A type of cyclone strong wind strength usually happens during cyclones seasons that destroyed mainly food and plants. Usually during January and February.|
|Siritano||A cyclone that brings with it a lot of rain, stronger than Teretabwubwu.|
|Ulugaitavu (Luluigai)||Native description of a very strong or severe cyclone with very strong winds and rain that could uproots large trees and destroys everything along its part.|
|Mera||Native description of the thin layer of clouds usually reddish orange in colour and appears on the horizon where the sun sets.|
|Wai ronuhe||Native name given to a dug water source in the bush.|
|Wai Non Taga||Native name given to a water source near the coast.|
|Udu||Native name for Palolo worms|
|Pirivovohe||Native name of vovohe fruits|
|Damtarabe||Native description of yams that are stored in safe locations as source of food for disasters|
AR1 IPCC First Assessment Report
AR4 IPCC Fourth Assessment Report
AR5 IPCC Fifth Assessment Report
AHD Ahivo District
ALD Aligu District
AUD Aute District
CBA Community Based Adaptation
CBD Community Based Development
CBNRM Community Based Natural Resource Management
CCA Climate Change Adaptation
CF Consent Form
DRR Disaster Risk Reduction
EPA United States Environmental Protection Agency
FAO Food and Agriculture Organization
GIZ Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (German Development Agency)
IK Indigenous Knowledge
IPCC Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
LDC Least Developed Countries
NGO Non-Government Organization
NP North Pentecost
NRM Natural Resource Management
PIC Pacific Island Countries
PIS Participant Information Sheet
SIDS Small Island Developing States
SPREP South Pacific Regional Environmental Program
TA Thematic Analysis
TEK Traditional Ecological Knowledge
TIK Traditional Indigenous Knowledge
TK Traditional knowledge
UAHPEC University of Auckland Human Participant Ethics Committee
UN United Nations
UNDP United Nation Development Program
UNISDRR United Nation Office for Disaster Risk Reduction
USP University of the South Pacific
VNSO Vanuatu National Statistical Office
WIPO World Intellectual Property Organization
Over the last two decades, as consensus has grown amongst scientists about the drivers and impacts of climate change, a plethora of new research has identified that rural communities in the Pacific Islands nations are amongst the most vulnerable to the negative consequences of climate change. A wealth of studies has assessed the nature of biophysical and contextual vulnerabilities in the Pacific communities, with places and peoples mapped out as living in hazardous locations and lacking capacities to adapt due to limited knowledge and resources. However, less scholarly attention has been devoted to exploring how local communities who have lived on islands for generations have cope with and adapted to variable and changing social and environmental conditions (Warrick, 2010). This thesis aims to address one gap in the literature, how TK is used by rural communities to manage climate variability and extremes weather events. Rather than focusing on vulnerability which has been debated in many studies (O’Brien & Wolf, 2010; Schwarz et al., 2011; Warrick, 2011; Wheeler, 2011), for this study I focus on resilience and the capacity of local communities to adapt to changing environmental conditions.
This thesis examines the different ways in which traditional knowledge (TK) informs local communities in Vanuatu perceptions of and responses to climate variability and extreme weather events, and the role of TK in adaptation to the impacts of climate change. I argue, and will demonstrate, that TK is an important component of North Pentecostal communities’ adaptive capacities. The abilities of individuals, households and entire communities to plan for and take action to address to climate extremes and environmental changes in rural Vanuatu is often dependent on their local environmental knowledge and implementation of natural resource management and disaster risk reduction strategies. At present there are limited attempts by communities, government, and scientific organisations to integrate TK with western science to improve climate science and adaptation efforts. My study highlights the need to move beyond simply thinking of TK as a repository of environmental information that can augment or fill in gaps in scientific knowledge. Rather, my research with my own and other neighbouring communities of North Pentecostal in Vanuatu demonstrates how TK is (or was previously) extensively and successfully used to reduce climate-related risks to people’s livelihoods, and social health and wellbeing. Although TK is not used in CBA projects in North Pentecost at present, there is potential for community-driven and directed adaptation efforts that incorporate both western science and TK to achieve sustainable futures for rural communities.
In Vanuatu rural communities, classified by the IPCC as being highly vulnerable due to their geographical location and lack of resources (such as financial, technological, natural resources, and education), employ their TK to manage climate variability and extremes and in doing so demonstrate a high degree of adaptive capacity (Berkes et al , 2000; Fletcher et al., 2013; Leonard et al, 2013a; Okonya & Kroschel, 2013; Orlove et al, 2010; Zuma-Netshiukhwi et al, 2013a). For this thesis, traditional knowledge of the local people in the rural communities on North Pentecost in Vanuatu is identified and investigated on its uses and roles in adapting to these changes. Also, it explores how traditional knowledge as part of values and belief system could be incorporated into the development of community-based climate change adaptation strategies. In doing that, this section firstly discusses the challenges that prompt such adaptation strategies. Then, it discusses the contribution of this research to the body of literature in environmental management. Furthermore, it outlines the research question and objectives and finally it details how this thesis is organized.
The changes in the natural ecological system as result of climate change has widespread impacts across all sections of societies from developed to developing countries. The Fifth IPCC report states that warming of the atmosphere is causes by recent anthropogenic emission of green-house gases and the impacts will be visible on continents and across oceans (IPCC AR5, 2014 , Pachauri et al., 2014). Most of the impacts with/and observed changes are reported in extreme weather and climate events such , decrease in cold temperature extremes, an increase in warm temperature extremes, increase high sea level and increase in number of heavy precipitation events (Pachauri et al., 2014). The risk is unevenly distributed and greater for disadvantage people and communities in terms food and water security, infrastructure, health and overall ecological systems. Small Island Developing States (SIDS), which includes Pacific nations such as Vanuatu, Fiji, Tonga, and Samoa, are identified as being highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change (Bell et al, 2011; Betzold, 2015; O’Brien & Wolf, 2010; Warrick, 2011).
Pacific SIDS are classified as highly vulnerable due to geographical location which inhabits ecosystems that are increasingly prone to the effect of environmental change. These marginal environments or high risk areas exposed to seal level rise, increase in tropical cyclone frequency and strength, increase in air and sea surface temperatures and changing rainfall patterns (Lefale, 2010; Nurse et al., 2014; Schwarz et al., 2011). For instance, Vanuatu has experienced one of the severe tropical cyclones in its history when tropical cyclone Pam destroyed mostly infrastructures and agricultural products in early March 2015 (Hazelgrove-Planel, 2015; Hong et al., 2018). Also, Pacific Islanders are directly dependent on their surrounding lands and resources for meeting their basic livelihood needs (Minar et al, 2013; Warrick, 2011) and furthermore, for rural Pacific communities, the capacity to adapt to such changes is a challenge due to poorly developed infrastructure and limited natural , human and economic resources (Betzold, 2015). Many of the local communities rely or revisited their traditional knowledge to adjust to this current climatic variability and sea level rise by building seawall to reduced sea flooding and erosions (Nunn et al, 2017), planting drought resistance crops, building and revisiting traditional buildings infrastructure (Lebel, 2013a)
While natural environmental changes may create challenges for rural local communities to continue their traditional ways of life, yet other challenges intricated by socio- economic factors must also take into considerations(Gómez-Baggethun et al, 2013). Natural environment system coevolves with social systems that helps strengthen the capacity of human societies to deal with the disturbances and maintain ecosystem services favourable for local livelihoods. This evolution may be disturbed by globalization where use of science and information in policy for governance and decision making are being called to address climate change impacts (Eakin & Lemos, 2006) without acknowledging the indigenous knowledge capacities. The impacts of natural environmental changes affecting rural communities must research in conjunction with social changes. This is to allow full dynamics of changes that communities really faced.
Climate change adaptation has become an issue where western knowledge tend to dominate climate change adaptation and seen as the only option of climate change adaptation. While, developed countries with resources could be well off with using scientific knowledge for adapting to climate variability, a focus was put on integration of western and traditional knowledge for community -based adaptation (Alexander et al., 2011; Birkmann & Teichman, 2010a; Hiwasaki et al, 2014a; Lebel, 2013e; Mercer et al, 2007; Raymond et al., 2010). However, little is known about the uses and roles of traditional knowledge in indigenous communities and the capacity they have. Other scholars argued that using western science for climate change adaptation in community-based adaptation program is challenging and tend to override the real community goal of adaptation initiated by local people (Adger et al, 2013a; Changrsquo et al, 2013; Naess, 2013a). A need to fully understand all aspect of traditional knowledge so that integration process must involve equal contributions from both knowledge in proposed community-based adaptations.
Betzold (2015) argued that ‘local turn’ in adaptation may be a step in the right direction for communities with limited resources. This is when full adaptation measures are taken care by the communities themselves. Traditional and indigenous adaptation practices are utilised. It is where communities know about their needs and options and be able to make informed decisions and implement them according to their diverse adaptation needs. However, many local communities do not have uniform climate change risk (Nurse et al., 2014), therefore, adaptation needs are variable from one island region to another. For that, the traditional knowledge of the environment in each region or local area is significant for each challenge caused by climate variabilities and changes.
In this thesis I demonstrate that traditional knowledge could be used in insolation as a mechanism for climate change adaptation. I argued that national government policy on traditional knowledge must recognised and elevate the awareness of traditional knowledge in the area of climate change adaptation. The IPCC report for 2007 has recognized traditional knowledge, yet, there is little critical engagement with indigenous knowledge systems, and the historical and contextual complexities of indigenous experiences are largely overlooked (Ford et al., 2016). More emphasis was placed on integrating of knowledge between science and local knowledge , however, in most cases this does not fulfil the goal of adaptation because “classification of knowledge is arbitrary and knowledge integration perspectives are qualitatively very different” (Raymond et al., 2010b). A co-management approach could encourage learning and collaborations among science and local knowledge through practical policies (Armitage et al., 2009; Olsson, Folke et al, 2004).
In chapter 6 and 7 of this thesis, I demonstrate that traditional knowledge was widely used by local people of North Pentecost in Vanuatu to adapt to changes in the natural environment. Based on the three key components of TK identified from this research, traditional knowledge of environmental monitoring, management strategies and practises and worldviews, it strongly argued that traditional knowledge could be used to adjust to natural environmental changes.
Traditional knowledge of local and indigenous people have been recognised in many areas of studies such as in health (Tynan et al., 2011; Viney et al., 2014), medicine (Bradacs, Heilmann, & Weckerle, 2011; Hossan et al., 2010; Vitalini et al., 2013) , disaster risk reduction (Gaillard & Mercer, 2013; Kelman, Mercer, & Gaillard, 2012; Mercer, Kelman, Taranis, & Suchet-Pearson, 2010; Walshe & Nunn, 2012) . The concept of traditional knowledge as options for adapting to climatic environmental change and reducing risk to natural disasters is widely accepted by international communities.
The findings of this research contributes to the wide body of literatures (Fletcher et al., 2013; Gero, Meheux, & Dominey-Howes, 2011; Lebel, 2013b; Leonard, Parsons, Olawsky, & Kofod, 2013b; McNamara & Prasad, 2013; Zuma-Netshiukhwi, Stigter, & Walker, 2013b) on the uses and roles of traditional and indigenous knowledge in climate change adaptations. Recent studies have emerged that explores how traditional knowledge can become part of a shared learning effort to address adaptation in climate variabilities and change for resilience and sustainable community in the Pacific such as (McNamara & Prasad, 2014) coping strategies of the communities in Vanuatu and Fiji on extremes weather events. For example, Gero et al. (2011) and Walshe & Nunn. (2012) describing the incorporation of local knowledge in community-based disaster rick reduction and climate change adaptation in the Pacific, and (Dumaru, 2010) on community based climate change adaptation on Druadrua Island in Fiji and (McNaught et al, 2014).
Using the context of rural setting in Vanuatu for this study, I construct an analytical argument based on the data from the fieldwork and argued that the uses and role of traditional knowledge helped people of North Pentecost in Vanuatu to adjust to climatic environmental change. They use their knowledge to predict both short and long terms environmental change and how to adapt to these changes using traditional management of adaptations and practices intact within the cultural and traditional values and beliefs system. I argue that TK as a significant component of people’s values and belief systems must be controlled and management by the communities themselves. This is because any decision of adaptation undertaken must always favour the goals and aspirations of the local communities. For that, Community-Based Adaptation must be community driven.
The global climate system is change due to human influences (Pachauri et al., 2014), thus natural environment are the first to response to these changes. Local people who live in rural parts of the world and those that their livelihood depends on natural environment for daily living will be the first to see these changes. Many local communities were able to cope with such changes according to their needs based on their traditional and indigenous way of adaptation. Many rural communities in Vanuatu use their traditional knowledge to adjust to these changes. Even though, traditional knowledge has be recognised as an option for climate change adaptation in the Pacific (Allen, 2015; Barnett, 2001; Forsyth, 2017; Gero et al., 2011; Mercer et al., 2007, 2010; Williams & Hardison, 2013), there is little attention that related to its understanding of the uses and roles of traditional that is intact within the rural local communities.
This thesis aims to answer the question: to what extent Traditional Knowledge is used by local people to adjust to current climate variability and extremes and how could it be incorporated into the development of sustainable community-based adaptation strategies?
Guided by the main research questions, the following research objectives were
- To identify the TK indicators used by local people to adjust to climate variabilities and extremes.
- To investigate what types of indicators are perceived by local people to be the most important to manage climate variability and change.
- To explore how traditional knowledge as part of indigenous belief system can incorporate into the development of community-based adaptation strategies.
The research focuses on the island of Pentecost (Figure 2). Pentecost is part of the province of PENAMA with a total population of 16,899 people based on 2016 Mini Census (VNSO, 2016). Pentecost is divided into four areas; North Pentecost, Central Pentecost 1, Central Pentecost 2 and South Pentecost. This research targets North Pentecost area council with a total population of 5,778 people (VNSO, 2016). The total land area of Pentecost is 490 square kilometres with the highest elevation of 947 metres above sea level. The high mountain ranges divide the humid and rainy eastern coast from the more temperate western coast.
Source : https://www.citypopulation.de/Vanuatu.html
People live in small rural villages, surviving by subsistence agriculture. Copra was the main export for many years, but this was overtaken by kava, a narcotic root used to prepare for traditional drink. Since, kava has become commercialized, people turn to kava for quick cash. Pentecost is well known throughout Vanuatu as the main kava producing island that supplies most of the kava products to the two towns of Port Vila and Luganville and as well as to overseas markets such as New Caledonia and the United States of America.
The reminders of the chapters are outline below:
Chapter 2 reviews and critics the different body of international published academic literatures on the uses and roles of traditional knowledge in climate change and disaster risk reduction. The debate focuses on the phenological aspect of the uses and roles of traditional knowledge of monitoring weather and climate hazards. Natural Resource Management (NRM) is discussed in relations to the community-based climate change adaptions strategies. Furthermore, the benefit of using traditional knowledge in providing data and adaptation strategies in the context of sustainable development is discussed and finally the different world views and beliefs in relation to climate change are highlighted.
Chapter 3 continues to review and critics the different body of published and grey literatures on climate change adaptations in the Pacific Island countries. This Chapter focuses on the vulnerability, both physical and social vulnerability and highlights the extent on the current uses and roles of traditional knowledge in adaptations by exploring the community-based adaptation strategies.
Chapter 4 describes the context of the field study site of Vanuatu. It describes the political and governing structure as channel for climate change adaptation policies to local communities. The emphasis will be on local communities or village government structures which provides clear pathways on how to incorporate traditional knowledge into the development of community adaptations strategies. This chapter is important for the discussions as it will give some ideas on how local people sustain the activities of subsistence farming and their way of life amid climate variabilities and change.
Chapter 5 present the framework on how data are obtained through qualitative approach. In depth semi-structured interview approach is described on how it is used to collect primary data from indigenous experts and local people on the uses and roles of traditional knowledge on the changes in the environment. Secondary sources from government publications were also gattered to support results and discussion. This chapter also outline and discuss the thematic analysis method used for the data analysis and also some challenges on the approach were described.
Chapter 6 & 7 present the results of the field research in relation to the question and objectives of this thesis. The three themes emerged from the data analysis were discussed. The facts and information used for monitoring environmental changes, management strategies for adapting to these changes, insights of local people on incorporating TK in community-based adaptations, perceptions of climate changes and the worldviews (values and belief systems).
Chapter 8 discusses the results in support of the wider academic literatures focusing on the uses of traditional knowledge for environmental monitoring and climate change, disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptations strategies. Also, linking wider worldviews with the values and belief system of the local people of North Pentecost
Chapter 9 concludes this thesis by revisiting the thesis objectives. Also, it discusses the limitation of this research and proposes two considerations for future research (policy linkage and gender participations and climate change adaptations in Vanuatu).
CHAPTER 2: RESEARCH ON THE USES AND ROLES OF TRADITIONAL KNOWLEDGE IN NATURAL ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE AND ADAPTATION
Traditional knowledge (TK) is part of socio-economic and cultural structures for the indigenous communities throughout many parts of the world. It has been a cornerstone for their livelihood which determines how these communities cope with and adapt to the changes in the environment (Leon et al., 2015; Nyong, Adesina, & Elasha, 2007; Riedlinger & Berkes, 2001). In this chapter, I explore the uses and roles of traditional knowledge in climatic variabilities and change. There is a firm belief that traditional knowledge helps in identifying onsets of these adverse ecological changes which triggers appropriate management options to adapt to these changes (D. Green & Raygorodetsky, 2010; Donna Green et al., 2010; Okonya & Kroschel, 2013; Weatherhead et al., 2010).
Traditional knowledge is seen as a mechanism for participatory approaches and is sustainable. Moreover, TK increases the rate of effective communication and dissemination of climate change mitigation and adaptation at the local scale level (A. Nyong, Adesina, & Elasha, 2007a). In part, I argue that traditional knowledge management techniques can be used to reduce vulnerability to the impacts of climate changes. I discuss how traditional knowledge systems, belief, and values shape and have shaped adaptation strategies of many indigenous communities in the face of adverse environmental changes caused by past and current climate variability and extremes. I begin by defining traditional knowledge based on different authors definitions. Then, I dicsuss the extent to which traditional traditional knowledge is used in climate change and disaster risk reduction and the different worldviews .
The definition of traditional knowledge is debated by many scholars and viewed in different contexts. Berkes (2017) claims that there is no concise or accepted definition of traditional knowledge due to its ambiguous and dynamic form, and how TK is used in each given context. In a similar but narrow concept, Dutfield (2003) refers to traditional knowledge as a knowledge associated with the environment rather than knowledge related to the environment. Dutfield’s definitions describe the knowledge as the use of plant and animal species, as well as soil and minerals; knowledge of preparation, processing, or storage of useful species; knowledge of formulations involving more than one ingredient; knowledge of individual species, and knowledge of ecosystem conservation for practical purposes by the local community or their culture. Similarly, Berkes et al, (2000) define traditional knowledge as knowledge based on accumulation of observations and practical experiences passed on from different generations.
Traditional knowledge is the main subject of all knowledge related to the environment and others are a subset of it such as indigenous or local knowledge and traditional ecological knowledge (TEK). According to Li, (2014), indigenous knowledge can be defined in two ways, as a knowledge held and used by communities, people and nations that are “indigenous’ and as the knowledge that is itself “indigenous.” Traditional ecological knowledge refers to knowledge systems embedded in the cultural traditions of regional, indigenous and local communities.. Berkes Fikret et al., (2000) underpins the definition of traditional ecological knowledge by stating that traditional ecological knowledge is an enduring link between humans and the environment and is regarded as part of an everyday way of doing things. In support of this, traditional knowledge can be regarded as the main component of community survival at first glance in relation to natural environmental hazards.
Indigenous, traditional and traditional ecological knowledge can be used interchangeably with each other. However, most scholars favor using indigenous knowledge than traditional knowledge (Berkes et al., 2000). For this paper, the term traditional knowledge is used.
Scholars argue that traditional knowledge can be used as a tool to enhance the understanding of local climate in a data deficient region so that adaptation strategies are more robust at the local scale (Fernández-Llamazares et al., 2017; Pennesi et al., 2012; Riedlinger & Berkes, 2001). Leonard et al. (2013) documented traditional ecological knowledge (Figure 2.1) by indigenous people of Australia.
|TEK Categories||TEK Applications|
|Use of biodiversity resources and management of environment||
Source: (Leonard et al., 2013)
This argument is underpinned by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stating that studies on climate change and global environmental change have explored indigenous knowledge to become part of a shared learning effort to address climate-change impacts.(IPCC AR4, 2007). To date, however, this remains particularly true in most developing countries where scientific data is lacking and that the only source of reliable information is through traditional knowledge ( Soriano et al, 2017; Weatherhead et al., 2010). In Northern Philippines, for example, traditional ecological and climate knowledge of the local people have helped them adapt to the perceived changes which help them to continually sustain the success of their local rice productions (Soriano et al., 2017). The traditional knowledge and use of bioclimatic indicators that link changes to atmospheric conditions such as wind, temperature and cloud formation with the behavior of flora and fauna throughout the seasons enable adjustments to how local people act and sustain their livelihood (Granderson, 2017). Moreover, it has further emphasized the importance that indigenous people must be included in the adaptation planning process so that they can identify strategies that are culturally appropriate and effective in responding to local weather and climate extremes(Soriano et al., 2017). Furthermore, it will allow traditional knowledge to be used in climate change research as a source of climate history and a baseline data for observed changes.
As stated above, TK can be used to inform science and contribute to enhancing community-based adaptation strategies (Green t al., 2010; Jacobi et al., 2017). For example, traditional knowledge is used in the Arctic region to monitor and observe the behavior of animals under changing environment contributes to science in understanding the movement and availability of livestock (Herrmann et al., 2012). Moreover, in Australia, natural resource scientists increasingly recognise traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) of aboriginal people in fire, water and food management as a coping mechanism to adapt to extreme weather and climate conditions (Donna Green et al., 2010; Leonard et al., 2013; Prober et al., 2011) .Significantly, traditional knowledge has established a firm foundation that is already regonised and used within scientific communities.
On the other hand, climate change is disrupting traditional knowledge and culture of indigenous people (O’Brien & Wolf, 2010). A case in point is the Arctic region and the Philippines where local people experience difficulty in predicting the weather due to changing weather patterns (Soriano et al., 2017; Weatherhead et al., 2010). Recent evidence and prediction indicate that climate changes will lead to a wide-ranging shift in weather and climate variables (IPCC AR5, 2014). Consequently, the differences in climate variabilities and extremes will affect natural resources, food and water security (Heltberg et al., 2009; Walck et al, 2011; Walther, 2010; Walther et al., 2002). Local and indigenous people will have to cope with these changes not only by using their current traditional knowledge to adapt but to revisit past knowledge or invent new ways of adaptation to deal with these changes.
In realizing the scope of traditional knowledge in climate change adaptation, the national and international agencies and governments in both the developed and developing world tend to focus their attention on the documentation and research into this discourse (IPCC AR5, 2014, p. 637). The Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of the IPCC states with high confidence that the documentation of traditional methods of adaptation in both developed and developing countries have grown (IPCC AR5., 2014). This is true for Western United State and the Pacific islands where the opportunities to document and apply indigenous knowledge to support policy and practices of adaptive strategies (Armatas et al., 2016; Chambers et al., 2017). Again, there has been an increased effort by climate change scientists in relying on the observations of environmental change by local hunters and gatherers to better understand how to develop effective adaptation strategies (Da Silva et al., 2014; Ignatowski & Rosales, 2013). This shows the importance of TK in complementing western knowledge.
The significant increase of documenting traditional knowledge for climate change adaptation came to reality when Pacific island countries created a database for traditional knowledge indicators in weather and climate prediction (Chambers et al., 2017). Consequently, increasing documentation and research into TK is usually accepted as vital to both current and future use. However, caution must be taken when using TK if there are challenges in applying it to the rapidly changing environment, and for this, it must be recorded as a baseline for future research references. There is no such thing as a static solution to a wicked problem. Concerns were raised by Weatherhead et al., (2010) that documentation of TK must be done with care and in collaboration with the local TK holders. Pennesi et al., (2012) argue that the significant aspect of developing traditional weather knowledge is the amount of time spent and experience engaging in activities such as farming, hunting, and fishing.
2.3.1 Traditional Knowledge Indicators
Adaptation involves being sensitive to interpretive signs in the environment and knowing how to respond (Weber , 2010). Indigenous people who are hunters, fishers, and who actively use the land and its resources possess a wealth of traditional ecological knowledge because of their close observation of the environment which includes looking for signs of change (Armatas et al., 2016; Ignatowski & Rosales, 2013). Armatas et al. (2016) argue that traditional phenological knowledge improves resilience to social and ecological systems amidst climate change by providing indicators to identify and assess environmental change. By contrast, the most significant aspect of developing local weather and climate knowledge is the amount of time spent engaging with the environment (Pennesi et al., 2012). To support this, Leonard et al. (2013) give an example of pelicans making corkscrew-like flights in the sky indicating signs to Aboriginal people that water sources may have dried up. Other traditional knowledge indicators used by indigenous people to signal changes of the environment include cloud formations, wind directions, increase in night-time temperature, time of growth and flowering of plants and behaviour of animals and birds (Barnhardt, 2005; Chang’a et al., 2010; Granderson, 2017; Lefale, 2010; Leonard et al., 2013; Orlove et al., 2010; Pennesi et al., 2012; Weatherhead et al, 2010). Granderson (2017) examines the link between the traditional knowledge indicators and the behavior of flora and fauna from environmental conditions that enable local people to act accordingly through seasons. In effect, the contributions of traditional indicators of environmental change are potentially important to climate change adaptation.
In contrast to the previous discussion, traditional knowledge indicators have also come under increasing challenges of predicting weather and climate due to rapidly changing environments (Weatherhead et al., 2010). Thus, as claimed by Fernández-Llamazares et al., (2017) caution is recommended when considering using indigenous knowledge to predict change in climate. Mengistu (2011) highlights the inconsistency of environmental indicators and cultural beliefs that even though they are part of local people’s knowledge and experiences, they are still difficult to compromise. He further argues that this will have an impact on adjusting traditional practices to adapting to climate change. Consequently, the socioecological resilience of local people may be affected due to their close connection to the natural world (Green & Raygorodetsky, 2010) and for this reason, when doing place-based research, facets of indigenous knowledge must be taken seriously (Berkes, 2012, p. 176).
2.3.2 Traditional Knowledge Management System
It is widely acknowledged that traditional knowledge management systems have not been fully utilized when dealing with natural disasters and current environmental changes (Mercer, 2010a). Mercer further argues that for community-based adaptation to be successful, the past and present traditional knowledge and experiences must be considered. Indigenous people have socially constructed their own ways of adjusting to climate variabilities and change, an aspect of reducing the risk of disasters based on their locally developed knowledge and practices (Leonard et al., 2013). As an equivalent to Leonard et al., Berkes, (2012) states that traditional knowledge has provided a baseline against which to compare changes and the strategies to manage these changes. Moreover, traditional knowledge offers a tool to ground-truth gridded descriptions of climate changes, so that adaptation strategy is more robust at local scales (Fernández-Llamazares et al., 2017)
There is a wealth of knowledge that has been practiced and adapted to over generations especially in areas of disasters and natural resource management and also agricultural and food security that has contributed to sustaining the life and living experiences of indigenous communities (Berkes & Ross, 2013).
184.108.40.206 Natural Resource Management
The indigenous rural communities throughout many parts of the developing world rely heavily on resources from the natural environment including forest, marine, and surface freshwater resources for their survival (Singh et al., 2010). They organize and use their traditional knowledge and skills to manage the elements of their natural resources for food security, cultural and ritual activities, and for preservation and protection against natural disasters and other adverse weather events (Anthwal et al., 2010). Traditional knowledge and skills for conservation and protection are rooted in these types of practices, and most of them have been practiced until today (Léopold et al., 2013). For example, the practices of using traditional off-limits or taboo signs (Namele (Cycads) leaf) commonly used in the Pacific islands to indicate areas that are restricted to human activities for many years (Léopold et al., 2013). As well as the traditional knowledge of looking after totems or natural features that are connected to a clan or clans within an indigenous society and the traditional techniques of fishing or hunting which only allow for limited removal of species for consumption (Swanson, 2017). These methods are some of the self-learning models which involve traditional knowledge as a tool to control unsustainable use and for the survival of rare species of resources. The promotion of traditional knowledge-based practices such as those mentioned earlier can facilitate the conservation of resources and the subsistence survival of local people during extreme climate and weather events (Singh et al., 2010)
Before the concept of integration of knowledge emerged, and the increase in socioeconomic activities, traditional knowledge management for natural resources has been practiced and dominated by local and indigenous communities for many centuries (Stocker et al., 2016). In the Pacific islands, indigenous people developed a sophisticated understanding of the natural process regulating abundance and practical strategies to manage those resources (Friedlander et al., 2013). For example, fishing periods only happen outside spawning sessions or in a way that does not disturb mating and spawning seasons, and large trees are preserved for canoe-building (Friedlander et al., 2013a). This allows for fish and other sea creatures to replenish.
Traditional or indigenous knowledge has fit well with the concept of community-based natural resources. The idea of community-based natural resource management came about with the realization that there are a plethora of challenges when social systems interact with natural systems, a wicked problem (Cox et al., 2010, p. 249). As mentioned earlier in this section, an enormous number of scholarships on roles of traditional knowledge in the community are based on natural resource management and most of these scholarships are a concern with resource management in the developing world.
For the Pacific islands, traditional and local knowledge has contributed to resource management due to pressure on populations because of socio-economic development and climate change impacts (Clarke & Jupiter, 2010; Foale et al., 2011; Friedlander et al., 2013; Lebel, 2013) . For example, the works of Kronen et al., 2010 and Lebel, 2013) emphasize that local knowledge must be used to identify changes caused by climate change on the natural environment at the local level. One of the findings of Chamley (2010), is the Native Americans used traditional ecological and local knowledge to manage the northwest forest which resulted in maintaining the biodiversity despite a lack of scientific evidence. According to McMillen et al., (2014), community-based and participatory approaches can complement ground-truth models and appropriately direct resource management and adaptation measures at the local level of the communities.
220.127.116.11 Disaster Risk Reduction
Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) is a development system and application of policies and strategies to minimize impacts of natural hazards and increase resilience to disasters amongst vulnerable societies (Kelman et al., 2012; Mercer et al., 2010). The relationship of traditional knowledge to disaster risk reduction has become recently valuable due to its transferability and adaptability, participatory approaches mechanism and empowerment among vulnerable communities (Shaw et al., 2008). Many aspects of traditional knowledge are used in the developing world to reduce vulnerability to natural disasters such as tsunami, flooding, storms, and droughts. The extent of using and relying on traditional knowledge to mitigate or respond to natural disasters has been widely common in developing nations like the Pacific islands and Southeast Asia to cope with and adjust to the changes caused by natural variability and disaster (Kelman et al., 2012b). For example, indigenous knowledge has been used as part of mitigation and preparedness to warn local communities against tsunami in Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Simeulue Island in Aceh, Indonesia (Fritz & Kalligeris, 2008; Syafwina, 2014; Walshe & Nunn, 2012). Furthermore, the uses and roles of traditional knowledge in DRR has been commonly mentioned in other scholarly publications such as Anna Gero, Méheux, & Dominey-Howes, (2011) on integration of DRR and CCA, Rahman & Rahman (2015) on natural and traditional defence mechanism in Bangladesh and McNamara & Prasad (2014) on coping with extreme weather that focuses on the Pacific islands of Fiji and Vanuatu.
Traditional knowledge has found its niche within the current and modern way of dealing with natural disasters and current climate variabilities and change. In support, Birkmann & von Teichman (2010) argue that indigenous knowledge could help facilitate the preparation of specific adaptation and DRR strategies at the local scale because of the lack of local or down-scaled data of climate change effects or the localisations of impacts of extreme weather. Traditional knowledge is of great value for scientific research and environmental management, particularly in areas where local measurement and scientific data are lacking or limited (Leon et al., 2015). Traditional knowledge informs emergency preparedness due to its flexibility and seasonal cycle that made it possible to be intimately connected with the knowledge of the environment (Pearce et al., 2015). It was claimed that a lower death toll from the tsunami in the Simeulue Island of Indonesian was connected to traditional knowledge of the local people
Even though traditional knowledge is widely accepted in disaster and climate change adaptation, the real challenge is that it must be integrated with science before it can be used (“Fifth Assessment Report – Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability,” n.d.-a; Hiwasaki, Luna, Syamsidik, & Shaw, 2014a; Mercer et al., 2007). Furthermore, Weichselgartner & Pigeon, (2015) state that it is essential to understand the connection that links disaster risk reduction, knowledge management, and social learning to help improve disaster risk reduction at the local community level. The connections that relate to the use of traditional knowledge, in tandem with scientific knowledge and the top-down, and bottom-up approaches, require the support of national institutions and policies (J.-C. Gaillard & Mercer, 2013). By recognizing the use and roles of traditional knowledge in reducing impacts of environmental hazards, will help to maintain the remaining capacity of this knowledge in the local communities, hence increase adaptations and promote resilience.
18.104.22.168 Traditional Knowledge and Adaptation
The adverse impact of global climate change on food and water security is expected to have profound effects on the vulnerable indigenous communities whose livelihood depend on natural resources through subsistence agriculture and fishery activities (Barnett, 2011a; Vermeulen, Campbell, & Ingram, 2012; Wheeler & Von Braun, 2013). For these subsistence activities to be sustained , the local communities traditionally depend on careful observation of the environment including climatic factors such as wind direction, cloud formation and rainfall (Granderson, 2017). Adaptation is considered a critical factor that will shape the future severity of climate change impacts on food production (Altieri et al., 2015). For Pacific island communities, food security is tested when it comes to extremes evens such as tropical cyclones and droughts (Campbell, 2015). Although this is true, studies have shown that local and indigenous communities could use or depend on their traditional knowledge to ensure food and livelihood security are maintained during arduous periods such as natural disasters and extreme weather and climate events (Campbell, 2015; Fletcher et al., 2013; Gyampoh et al., 2009; Krishna, 2011; Leonard et al., 2013; Power, 2008). For example, the traditional knowledge of food harvesting, sharing and consumption for the Aboriginal people in Canada and Australia (Beaumier & Ford, 2010a; Leonard et al., 2013b; Power, 2008a) and the mobility or shifting of people from Savannah areas to forest areas or closer to water sources that favour planting conditions during droughts for the Makushi people of Guyana (Krishna, 2011). For this reason, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) includes traditional and indigenous knowledge in policies and programmes and recognize traditional knowledge as tools to tackle problems of climate change (FAO, 2009).
22.214.171.124.1 Traditional Knowledge and Food Management
Food security consists of four components or elements which include food availability, ability to access food, ability to utilize food and the ability to sustain food supply (Barnett, 2011a; FAO, 2007). The elements of food security are treated by current climate variabilities and change (Wheeler & Braun, 2013). Other social factors have also threatened traditional food security such as limited accesses to traditional land, poverty, environmental pollution on traditional food system, loss of taste for traditional foods due to the intake of western foods and the decrease in the transfer of cultural knowledge from elders to young people (McCubbin et al., 2017; Power, 2008; Vermeulen et al, 2012). While there are challenges to food security, options are there for indigenous communities to utilise their traditional knowledge to cope with these changes.
According to the FAO, many local and indigenous communities have traditional knowledge related to thousands of indigenous crop and plant varieties, animal breeds and wild species that they use as food or medicine to ensure food and livelihood security (FAO,2009). For example, a traditional knowledge richness study in a single village in Vanuatu by Lebot & Siméoni (2015) found that 68 out of 70 traditional cultivars were identified by women alone and Bradacs, Heilmann, & Weckerle, (2011b) found 117 traditional flora used as a medicine on three other islands in Vanuatu. Again, 104 plant species are used by local people of Balkan region of Albania to foster resilience during periods of food insecurity(Quave & Pieroni, 2015) and 120 fodder plant species used in silvopastoral systems in Bolivia are used during the dry season (Jacobi et al., 2017). This shows that traditional knowledge practices and experiences of food cultivations and planting have been a backbone for indigenous people for many generations.
Numerous scholars have identified other traditional approaches to food security such as food preservation and conservation during extreme weather like vegetables, breadfruit and cassava drying (Ibnouf, 2012; Warrick, 2011), cassava and yagona stem cut to prevent wind damage during tropical cyclones (Campbell, 2015; Fletcher et al., 2013; K. E. McNamara & Prasad, 2014b), and burying the harvest of taro with soil or sand so that it can last up to six months to supplement food supply during disastrous events (Fletcher et al., 2013). In realizing the contributions of traditional knowledge and involvement of indigenous communities in adaptation throughout many parts of the world, many international institutions came to rally their support for these community-led initiatives on climate change adaptations(Fletcher et al., 2013; Krishna, 2011). For instance, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) came to focus its support on the protection of traditional knowledge (WIPO, 2009). Traditional knowledge provides the in-depth experiences in the local context regarding food and agriculture management in times of disaster and weather extremes.
Traditional approaches to planting and hunting seasons have become difficult to predict due to changing weather and climate patterns (Barnett, 2011; Gyampoh et al., 2009). Krishna (2011) argues that these changes could force indigenous communities to alter their traditional adaptive management systems and could jeopardize their food security. While this may be true in some sense, local people tend to use their traditional knowledge to maintain aspects of their food security by planting faster maturing and drought-resistant crop varieties and prudently identifying best times to hunt, as well as being selective when keeping livestock in areas where rainfall has declined (Armatas et al., 2016; K. E. McNamara & Prasad, 2014b; Mengistu, 2011; A. Nyong et al., 2007a). Other simple management techniques are also used such as adjusting the time of planting to collide with the onset of rain and introducing food for work scheme and small business such as the sale of firewood and even reducing the number of meals per day (Mengistu, 2011).
The worldviews on environmental changes are dynamically differentiated based on the traditions and the setting of places (Adger et al., 2009; O’Brien & Wolf , 2010). The approach to climate change adaptation is equally important to individuals and cultures (O’Brien & Wolf, 2010; Stringer et al., 2014). That is true in a sense that traditions tend to influence cultures and indigenous views and guide the local norms that direct indigenous people’s way of life (Abegunde, 2017). Traditions include social and spiritual elements that link to the environmental aspect of indigenous knowledge such as stories and legends (Berkes, 2017) because they signify meanings. Therefore, the values of meanings are rooted in place or land that are related to indigenous people’s way of knowing. These refer to the experiences and connections that are rooted in the everyday activities as people engage with the natural world.
Regarding a relational worldview, Stocker et al., (2016) identify three components of relationships that maintain the sustainability of environmental management. These components of relationships are found in human-environment relations, family, social relationships and the power of story. The values and beliefs in these relationships inspire people to have a sense of belonging to place and nature within their surroundings (Abegunde, 2017; Leonard et al., 2013; Stocker et al., 2016). In summary, having a close relationship with the natural environment leads to building a permanent connection and a bank of knowledge that significantly relates to specific aspects of survival for human and their natural resources.
O’Brien & Wolf, 2010 describe the influence of climate change at the local scale as both objective and subjective. This depends on how people respond and view the changes as vulnerable to their resilience. While this is true, it remains confident that traditional options of people in rural areas are nebulous when it comes to talking about effects of climate change (Abegunde, 2017). This explains why the people of Miriwoong in the Aboriginal region of Australia link the changes to the environment to the mistreatment of local land and the increasing physical infrastructure development in their country (Leonard et al., 2013b). On the other hand, Abegunde (2017) also found that level of an illiterate population and lack of awareness of climate change have also contributed to unenthusiastic appreciation to the effect of climate change in rural areas. Moreover, in Northern Philippines, the local rice farmers linked climate changes to the disappointment of their ancestral spirit due to the waning practices of their rituals (Soriano et al., 2017). Hence, the relationship of humans to the natural environment is significant when it comes to climate change adaptation. This may also raise concerns about the views of people and how they perceive the issues according to their settings and experiences.
In brief, O’Brien & Wolf, (2010) state that a values-based approach to climate change is significant because climate change is a wicked problem. It is dynamic and dimensionally oriented and can create value conflicts. It may be judged based on different value systems by future generations, and climate change itself challenges worldviews and values. The analysis on values-based approached to climate change adaptation is one of the criteria to study vulnerability discourse at the local scale contexts.
To understand the uses and roles of traditional knowledge in climate variabilities and change, three concepts of indigenous knowledge in relations to environmental management must be investigated. These are the traditional knowledge indicators of environmental change, the management strategies that are used to adapt to these changes and the worldviews which connect the local people to these changes. The traditional indicators of the environment are used as early warning signs for changes in both DRR and climate change. It is increasingly recognized that it can work alone or in tandem with external knowledge (Birkmann & von Teichman, 2010; Camacho et al., 2012; Carby, 2015; Mercer et al., 2009; Pennesi et al., 2012; Walshe & Nunn, 2012).
The use and roles of traditional knowledge in natural resource management are recognized through community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) activities where indigenous and external knowledge are utilized to maintain natural resources. It is adaptable that traditional knowledge used in agriculture and food security in times of extreme weather and climate events are workable in many local communities. TK offers scientist, policymakers and social development workers an opportunity to incorporate insight in local weather systems, impacts and coping strategies (Magee et al., 2016). However, the challenges remain on how to integrate traditional knowledge into the development of community-based adaptation strategies and to overcome different worldviews regarding climate change at the local level.
This chapter explores the vulnerability of the Pacific people to current and future environmental change and the roles of traditional knowledge in managing these changes. It examines how the concepts of vulnerability and adaptation are used in climate change in the context of the Pacific Islands. The vulnerability is explored with specific reference to potential sections of the environment such as physical and social. The final part of this chapter looks at ways to cope with the changes to reduce vulnerability by exploring the community-based adaptation strategies. The emphasis is on traditional knowledge framework of adaptations.
The Pacific island regions are comprised of 22 countries and territories scattered throughout the tropical Pacific Ocean (see Figure 1). The people here depend on their natural environment for their sustenance and livelihoods. The countries are varied in terms of population and land areas with Papua New Guinea having the largest population (6,474,910 people) and land area (462,840 km2) and Tokelau with the smallest population (1,170 people) and land area (12 km2) (Barnett & Campbell, 2010). The Pacific region is divided into three sub regions comprised of Melanesia with larger and higher or mountainous islands compared to Polynesia which is mostly volcanic to low-lying atolls. Micronesia is made up of atoll island territories mainly located to the north of the equator. The Pacific region has been heavily debated in relation to climate change in literature, international media and IPCC and environmental publications because of its vulnerability to the impact of climate change (Barnett, 2011; Barnett & Campbell, 2010; IPCC AR1-5). It has been identified that significant sectors such as food and agriculture, fisheries, water, and tourism are some of the sensitive sectors that will be affected (Barnett, 2011a). The SPREP has been mandated by the Pacific Island governments as a regional institution to oversee the adaptation program as a means to reduce vulnerability to the impact of climate change (SPREP)
Source : http://peacesat.hawaii.edu/40RESOURCES/Maps/index.htm
Pacific Islanders have been dealing with environmental change for centuries. Adaptation to these change is part of the Pacific community’s lifestyle, and traditional knowledge, values, and practices underpin the ability of the Pacific community to successfully live and engage within their environment (Barnett & Campbell, 2010). However, their livelihood, lifestyle, values and practice are becoming vulnerable to the novel anthropogenic climate change-related impacts (IPCC AR5, 2014) such as loss of coastal land due to rising sea levels, increase variability on rainfall pattern, adverse economic impacts through infrastructure damage and increased food insecurity from increased intensity of extreme weather events (Barnett, 2011a; Barnett & Campbell, 2010; Nurse et al., 2001). Dynamic adaptation strategies and policies are needed in order to reduce the islands vulnerability to the impacts of climate change. Hall (2017) argues that there is no precise definition of adaptation due to it being epistemic ambiguity. This is because activities that are propagated are labeled as adaptation, and again it is difficult to monitor and track adaptation assistance.
The term vulnerability has its roots in geography and disaster-related development work before employed in other research contexts including climate impacts and adaptation (Füssel, 2007). O’Brien & Wolf (2010) state that responding to climate change impacts depends significantly on what the effect of climate change means to those affected. In other words, their vulnerability factors will determine how they plan to adapt to such impacts. In brief, the level of vulnerability depends on the settings (exposure), the sensitivity of the ecosystems and level of capacity to adapt to the changes (Barnett & Campbell, 2010, p. 9).
Many scholars link vulnerability to other research contexts with more emphasis on disaster risk concepts (Heltberg et al., 2009). The IPCC Third Assessment Report defines vulnerability as, “the degree to which a system is susceptible to, or unable to cope with, adverse effects of climate change, including climate variability and extremes ”(IPCC AR3,2001). Füssel (2007) states that vulnerability depends on the characteristics of risk, exposure, and sensitivity to risks and the expected impacts and losses. The use of vulnerability in terms of climate-related risk relates to all aspects of the effect of climate change. According to O’Brien & Wolf ( 2010) climate change cannot be assessed or responded to in only one way. The impacts of climate change are regarded as wicked problems which required dynamic responses.
Several vulnerability factors that are relevant to disaster reductions are physical, economic, social and environmental factors (“Fifth Assessment Report – Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability,” n.d.-b; Hans-Martin Füssel, 2007a). This is equally related to S. Robinson (2017), who identifies 28 climates or climate-induced and 30 non-climate induced vulnerabilities in the small island developing states (SIDS). This shows that SIDS are among the countries in the world that are most vulnerable to climate change and required to adapt to its impacts. The Pacific Islands are vulnerable to the impact of climate change due to their exposure, sensitivity and coping/adaptive capacity (Barnett & Campbell, 2010, Blasiak et al., 2017; Heltberg et al., 2009; IPCC AR4 2007). Sietz et al. (2012) simplify the components of vulnerability with an example that, “if the sensitivity of a household is low and its adaptive capacity is high, then the household’s vulnerability is low.” This illustration highlights and demonstrates the vulnerability assessment in research when dealing with climate change adaptation at the local scale contexts.
The Pacific Island countries (PIC) have been frequently cited as one of the most vulnerable regions to climate change impacts (IPCC AR4 2007 ; Gero et al., 2011; Nunn et al, 2017; Orcherton et al., 2017; S. Robinson, 2017; Schwarz et al., 2011; Weir & Pittock, 2017; Wise et al., 2014) because of their geographical location in a climate-sensitive region which makes them vulnerable to tropical cyclones, rising sea levels, increase sea surface temperature and tidal surge (Barnett, 2011; Barnett & Adger, 2003; Weir et al., 2017). Moreover, this is coupled with island size, increased population, poverty and limited economic resources (Weir et al., 2017). According to the “Fifth Assessment Report – Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability,” n.d.-b), there are five criteria to identify vulnerabilities. These include exposure to climate stressors, the importance of vulnerable systems, the ability to cope with and to build adaptive capacities, the persistence of vulnerable conditions and degree of irreversibility of consequences and the presence of conditions that make societies highly susceptible to cumulative stressors (IPCC AR5, 2014; Oppenheimer et al., 2014, p. 1051). There is no doubt that the criteria of vulnerabilities by IPCC is well vested with the Pacific Island countries.
According to the South Pacific Regional Environmental Program (SPREP), most island countries are experiencing climate change impacts on communities, infrastructure, water supply, coastal and forest ecosystems, fisheries, agriculture and human health. This is because of their geographic locations and the size of the islands , their climate-sensitive sectors and also their weak adaptive capacity to deal with environmental hazards (Barnett & Campbell, 2010; IPCC AR5 2014; Heltberg et al., 2009) such as flooding, increase in sea surface temperature , sea level rise, storm surge and strong winds (Duvat et al., 2017; Ellison et al., 2017; Thorne et al., 2017). For example, the top global index of vulnerability on climate change and marine fisheries for the least developed countries place seven Pacific island countries in the top ten positions (Blasiak et al., 2017). This shows that the climate change situation is increasingly driving sensitive sectors to the edge where appropriate adaptation strategies and policies are needed for sustainability of resources.
The works of Duvat et al. (2017) on trajectories of exposure and vulnerability in the Pacific reveal that the population of low-lying reef islands such as those in the Marshall Islands, Kiribati and Tuvalu are highly exposed and vulnerable because their locations are concentrated on flood-prone areas and in poor socio-economic and environmental conditions. Similarly, larger and high islands are also exposed to climate-related hazards risk because most human assets are located in low-lying coastal areas (Duvat et al., 2017; Thorne et al., 2017). Without a doubt, physical, social, economic and environmental sectors of the Pacific society are exposed and vulnerable to climate-related hazards (IPCC AR5 2014.). It is predicted that future impacts of climate change will have a negative influence on a wide range of socio-economic factors, including food security, livelihoods and public health and can reshape development trends and may inflict transboundary conflicts (Blasiak et al., 2017; McCubbin et al., 2015; McIver et al., 2015). It is not yet known whether all adaptation options are significant in reducing the vulnerability of climate change impacts to sensitive sectors. It is important that each island country develops adaptation strategies that are easy and those that have been practiced in the past to adjust to such environmental changes. The subsections below highlight how these sensitive sectors are vulnerable to climate change impacts.
The concept of a biophysical vulnerability refers to the combination of the function of hazards, exposure, and sensitivity (Brooks, 2003). In the context of the Pacific Islands, they are physically exposed to climate-related hazards such as tropical cyclones, droughts, sea level rise, coastal erosions and increases temperatures (IPCC AR4 2007; Füssel, 2007). As a result, the ecosystems that provide the main sources of resources for the Pacific people and their livelihood are sensitively affected by these climate-related stimuli (IPCC AR4 2007). For example, the changes in temperature and precipitation will bring changes in land suitability and crop yield (Schmidhuber & Tubiello, 2007)
Recently, it was highlighted that the Pacific Islands are already suffering the major impacts of climate change in some of their biophysical sectors such as coral reef and fisheries which are vital for coastal protection, food security and tourism (Blasiak et al., 2017; SPREP.; Weir et al., 2017). Barnett (2011) argues that climate change will adversely affect the food system in the regions. Moreover, with sea level rise, there are reported inundations of coastal areas which leads to saltwater intrusion that results in freshwater and crop contamination (Weir et al., 2017). Yet, not all local scenarios of climate change are similar, and options are available to the islanders on how to cope with these changes.
The biophysical vulnerability may be exacerbated by other social factors such as population growth and poverty (Adger, 1999). To date, however, it seems that climate change will continue to increase biophysical vulnerability to the Pacific Islands and that it will continue to have an impact on the socio-cultural lives of the people. With the rapid increase in the rate of climate change in the Pacific regions (IPCC AR5 2014) , adaptations will be the only option for the survival of the Pacific people unless mitigation actions are fulfilled.
The factors that determine social vulnerability are poverty, inequality and food entitlement (Adger et al., 2003; Adger & Kelly, 1999) . This happens when individuals or groups of people are exposed to stress as a result of the social and environmental change (Adger, 1999). In other words, the study of the ability (adaptive capacity) of the population to respond and cope with unexpected changes and disruptive of livelihoods (Adger et al., 2003; Brooks, 2003). These factors of social vulnerability are based on a bottom-up approach which mainly focuses on vulnerable communities. Adger & Kelly (1999) argue that understanding the human use of natural resources is the bases of understanding the social vulnerability of a group or individual which leads to determining the coping and adaptive capacity to social and environmental change.
Pacific Island countries are socially vulnerable in the sense that climate change will significantly affect their socio-economic and cultural livelihoods. Brooks (2003) states that the nature of social vulnerability will largely depend on the nature of hazards in which the human system is exposed. For Pacific communities, populations, economics, food, and water are vulnerable to the impacts of climate hazards. For example, the vulnerable populations are those categorized as the youngest, oldest, disabled, poor and uneducated when disasters strike such as cyclones and droughts. Furthermore, some of the countries in the Pacific are regarded as Least Developed Countries (LDC) by the United Nations (UN) which means they have fewer resources to fund preventive activities and mega infrastructures for adaptations apart from their indigenous knowledge of adapting (Mercer, Kelman, Taranis, & Suchet-Pearson, 2010c).
Pacific Island food security will also be at risk or vulnerable to the impact of climate change as droughts, storms, cyclones and freshwater are contaminated by sea level rise, affecting agriculture products, quantity and quality of food and freshwater resources(Adger et al., 2003; Caruson & MacManus, 2008). However, Mercer et al. (2010) points out that due to limited resources for SIDS, indigenous knowledge is a crucial component of a potential strategy in reducing vulnerability to environmental hazards. Again, this depends on the people’s perceptions and values in relation to adaptation strategies. This will be discussed in the next section
The concept of adaptation comes from natural science (Barnett & Campbell, 2010, p. 16; Lenski, 2017) which examines how living things have adapted over generations, including human beings to the changing conditions such as personal, social, economic and climatic (IPCC AR5, 2014 p. 853). Due to the rapid rate of climate change, the term is employed by the international, regional and national government with strong emphasis from the IPCC to highlight the management of climate change risk in vulnerable communities (IPCC AR5, 2014).
However, the term (adaption) is still lagging behind mitigation efforts both in research and climate negotiation (IPCC AR5,2014). This is because its definitions are consistently broad and vague due to the lack of agreement over what constitutes adaptation (Hall, 2017; IPCC AR5,2014). Nevertheless, the First Assessment Report of IPCC defines it as “measures to reduce the impact of global climate change”, with a significant focus on technical activities such as engineering seawalls to protect against sea level rise (IPCC AR1, 1990). The concept was then broadened further in the Fourth Assessment Report of IPCC that defines adaptation as “initiatives and measures to reduce the vulnerability of natural and human systems against actual or expected climate change effects” (IPCC AR4, 2007). The report highlights the various type of adaptation such as anticipatory and reactive, private and public, and autonomous and planned adaptations. The latter definition of adaptation captures the social aspect that involves narrowing the concept of adaptation to more vulnerable dimensions of human society.
The Fifth Assessment Report of IPCC collectively defines adaptation as, “the process of adjustment to actual or expected climate and its effects’’ (IPCC AR5,2014). Similar to IPCC AR5, Füssel, (2007) underpins the definition referring to adaptation as actions targeted at the vulnerable systems in response to actual or expected climate effects. Nevertheless, in a more local scale context in regards to the vulnerability point of view, the concept of adaptation involves being sensitive to the interpretive signs in the environment, make adjustments in line with the changes and knowing how to respond (adapt) (Adger et al., 2005; Pearce et al., 2015 , Nyong et al., 2007). Barnett & Campbell. (2010, p.16) argue that the response to changes in the environment depends on the nature, magnitude and speed of change and the attributes that are required for that particular type of change. In the context of the Pacific islands, the concept of vulnerability and adaptation depends on how people perceive these changes and the choice of adaption techniques they require that will be in line with their needs and values (Barnett & Campbell, 2010). In brief, adaptation at local scale communities is viewed based on the type of vulnerabilities.
Pacific Island countries must adapt to reduce vulnerabilities to the impacts of climate change. Community Based Adaptation (CBA) is an option because it is aligned to local culture, needs and capacity at the local level (Gero et al., 2011). CBA is an adaptation to environmental change caused by climate change at the local level in communities that include vulnerable people in design and implementation measures (Forsyth, 2017). The significance of CBA is that it encourages participants to build on the existing cultural norms to address concerns that make their livelihood vulnerable to the impact of climate change (Ayers & Forsyth, 2009; UNDP n.d.; Dumaru, 2010) . Moreover, integrating CBA with external knowledge helps to raise awareness of climate change and increase communities accesses to external sources (Dumaru, 2010).
Some scholars argue that there is no clear line between community-based adaptation and community-based development (CBD). This is because CBA is seen as adapting to current or existing climate variability rather than that of expected future climate change. While this is true for Pacific Island countries where it is difficult to differentiate adaptation to climate change from normal development. For Pacific people, a new development at the community level either as community-based adaptation or normal national development is a change that could contribute to upgrading the standard of living.
In realizing the vulnerabilities of the island countries to climate change impacts, the Pacific heads of government designated the South Pacific Regional Environmental Program (SPREP) to coordinate the Pacific region’s response to climate change. This includes planning and implementing adaptation strategies and integrating adaptation policies into development processes at national to local community levels. However, most of the community-based adaptation (CBA) to climate change projects in the Pacific Islands are funded and implemented in collaboration with other international such as UNDP, GIZ, Red cross and other non-government organizations (NGO) and academic institutions such as University of the South Pacific (USP), for example, the CBA in Druadrau Island, Fiji and in Samoa (Dumaru, 2010),
The Pacific Island countries (PIC) have no option of escaping the impacts of climate change and must fully abet with any adaptation options that are available to cope with the changes. This chapter demonstrates some of the key obstacles that make the Pacific Islands vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. These include physical features such as islands size, the location of the islands and limited natural resources in the climate-sensitive region. These are coupled with other social factors such as increased population and food insecurity particularly in some of the smaller island states.
Success in promoting and maintaining the values and culture of the Pacific Islands will depend on the willingness of the Pacific people to change their practices towards adaptations. Pacific people will decide their adaptation practices based on traditional knowledge or adaptation based on introduced knowledge and skills. As mentioned previously in the chapter, CBA is one way of adapting to the impact of climate change, which recognizes both inputs from local and western knowledge.
Chapter 3 & 4 outlined the key theoretical concepts that provide the bases for this thesis. This chapter describes the context of the field study site of Vanuatu. It describes the political and governing structure as channel for climate change adaptation policies to local communities. The emphasis will be on local communities or village government structures which provides clear pathways on how to incorporate traditional knowledge into development of community adaptations strategies. Vanuatu economic depends on agriculture and tourism, while most of Vanuatu population live in rural, there contribution to overall economy of the country is low because of subsistence way of living. This is important for the discussions as it will give some ideas on how they sustain the activities of subsistence farming amid climate variabilities and change.
Vanuatu like other Pacific Island countries already experiences and will continues to experience impact of climate change. This chapter highlights some of the impacts of climate change identify by the government and finally outline some adaptation strategies that was initiated through National Adaptation Program of Action (NAPA) as government response to climate change impacts.
Vanuatu is a group of islands in the South Pacific Ocean (Figure 2). It composes of over 83 tropical islands stretching 1,300 kilometers from north to south (Dixson et al., 2017) with a total land area of 12, 281 square kilometers and sea area of 680,000 square kilometers (Ahmed et al., 2011) . Its neighboring countries include Solomon Islands to the Northwest, New Caledonia to the South-Southwest, Fiji Islands to the East and Australia further to the West. In 1994, the islands of Vanuatu had been divided into six provinces; TORBA, MALMPA, SANMA, PENAMA, SHEFA, and TAFEA. The names of the provinces abbreviate the name of each island representing that province. For example, the province of PENAMA represents the islands of Pentecost, Ambae, and Maewo. Some of the major tourist attractions include the easily accessible active volcano of Yasur on the island of Tanna and the original land diving on the island of Pentecost.
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Port_Vila#/media/File:Vanuatu_location_map.svg with author’s overlay
In 2016, Vanuatu population is estimated to be 272, 459 people (VNSO). The average annual growth rate of 2.3% per year, based on the 2009 census (VNPHCR, 2009). The population is sparsely distributed throughout the islands with roughly 76% of the population live in rural areas (VNPHCR, 2009). Vanuatu people (Ni-Vanuatu) are part of Melanesia people which include the indigenous people of Fiji, New Caledonia, Solomon Islands Papua New Guinea, Irian Jaya (Indonesia) and the Torres Strait islands. Crowley (2001) describes Vanuatu as the most diverse nation because of about 80 different active languages spoken throughout parts of the country. However, the main national language of communication throughout the islands is Bislama, and the languages of education are English and French.
Vanuatu lies in a subtropical climate region with two distinct seasons: a dry season from May to October, and a wet season from November to April, which usually associated with high rainfall, high humidity, high temperatures and an elevated possibility of tropical cyclones. Vanuatu receives on average 2 to 3 tropical cyclones passing close its territory every cyclone season. In March 2015, Vanuatu was struck by severe tropical cyclone Pam which devasted half the country’s population (UNDP, 2015). The peak months of tropical cyclone activities in Vanuatu are December to February. The average rainfall is 300 mm. Temperature vary, from below 23C in the dry season, and above 28C in the wet season.
The islands of Vanuatu have been inhabited since 500 BEC and become part of Tongan Empire by the 14th century before the arrival of European sailors in the 17th Century. It was named “New Hebrides” in 1774 by Captain James Cook. During the 19th century saw the French and English Christian missionaries, traders, and planters settled on some of the islands. It became an Anglo-French condominium in 1906 and was ruled by two administrations, the British and French. The power struggle between the indigenous islanders and the dual colonial interests over land leads to further political turmoil resulting in the formation of the first government of national unity in 1978 with Vanua’aku Party (VP) as the largest indigenous political party. It was not until 1980 that New Hebrides gained independence from French and British and became the Republic of Vanuatu. After independence, VP remains in power for 11 years however the party becomes fragmented in 1991 which resulted in new political parties formed. Since then, there was no majority party ruling the government but a coalition of parties. Vanuatu governing structure (Fig 4.2) consists of the executive (head of state, head of government and the cabinet), legislative (Parliament and national council of Chiefs), judicial (courts) and regional government consisting of the 6 provinces. By traditions, Custom chiefs exercise authority within local communities if there are conflicting issues. Each village have their own village councils including chairpersons for each activity within the village. The chairpersons are elected by the villagers during a village meeting.
Source: Vanuatu Government
Vanuatu operates on two economy systems, the cash economy and the tradition economy. The cash economy which is more popular western governing systems and the traditional economy which is more popular at the rural and village level.
126.96.36.199 Cash Economy
According to the Quarterly Report of the Vanuatu Department Finance and Treasury (DOFT), the growth in the economy was recorded at 2.4 percent in 2015 (DOFT,2015) . In contrast, Agriculture has decline to 1.3 per cent in 2015 due to Tropical Cyclone Pam passage over the Vanuatu Islands. Services sector mainly in construction activities has increased due to the implementation of public projects. Most of the employment services sectors are concentrated in the two urban centers of Port Vila and Luganville, while about 80% of the population in rural Vanuatu still depend on subsistence farming and fishing for daily food productions. Addinsall et al. (2017) found that only minimal rural Ni-Vanuatu smallholders of business are contributing to the economy. It remains a challenge to involve these majority of people in the economic development of the country.
Vanuatu was admitted in the Least Developed Countries (LCD) category in 1985 (UN, 2015). It is regarded as one of the countries most exposed to violent natural disasters which its economy is mostly affected. For example 32 major earthquakes with average magnitude of 6.6 on Richter scale in 31 years, 10 active volcanic sites with exposed risk to thousands of islanders , over 100 cyclones struck Vanuatu within 40 years periods and ENSO events are been frequent (UN, 2015). Despite its economic vulnerability to natural disasters, Vanuatu has been earmarked by the UN for graduation from the Least Developed Country by December 2020 (UN, 2015).
188.8.131.52 Traditional Economy
Traditional economy is seen as a source of resilience in Vanuatu. According to Regenvanu (2009) ‘traditional economy refers to how a society organises itself to sustain its members – how it manages and shares the resources it has between them, how it feeds, clothes and accommodates them, and how it instils in its members the values required in order to keep the society going’. Regenvanu (2009) argued that these 80% of population live in settlements (villages) with other members of their traditional extended families, on land that is theirs under the rules of custom. They satisfy most of their food and other requirements using traditional methods and forms of land, sea and resources utilization such as gardening practices on their customary land and sea. Furthermore, the rural Vanuatu people speak their indigenous language and are governed by traditional leaders (chiefs). Moreover, they resolves their disputes within the communities by traditional leaders using traditional dispute resolution approaches and participate in custom ceremonies which cement their places as members of their community (Regenvanu, 2009).
The benefits of traditional economy are that everyone accesses land product food and other materials and has excellent sustainable management of natural environment. These are the rich natural capital were achieved through years of traditional management practices through generations. Furthermore, traditional economy provides social benefits that establish, maintain and mending relationships between groups. This traditional knowledge of economy could have been utilised further in establishing management practices for adjusting to climate variabilities and change.
Climate change remains a major global challenge for humanity. For Small Island Developing States (SIDS) like Vanuatu, climate change remains, in fact, the most significant single threat to livelihood and sustainable development (Vanuatu Government, 2007). The linkage between climate change and sustainable development is well documented. Without addressing climate change, sustainable development in SIDS cannot be achieved. The impacts of climate changes in Vanuatu are felt across all sections of the society (see Table 4.1) but the most affected are rural people due to their underinvestment in physical infrastructure and growing competition for land and resources (Addinsall et al., 2017).
Source: Vanuatu Government (2007)
One direct consequence of climate change is the increase in extreme weather events. For example, Chand et al. (2017) show that tropical cyclones will become more frequent during future-climate El Nino events. Consequently, this will have an adverse impact on many people’s livelihood especially local people in the remote communities in which their daily livelihoods depend on agriculture and farming. Cyclone Pam, which hit Vanuatu in 2015 (Hong et al., 2016; Kosciuch et al., 2017; Magee et al., 2016) has clearly demonstrated this, affecting 64% of the economy and 71% of the population as well as destroying 56.1 million dollars’ worth of food and agricultural crops (World Bank, 2015). Mostly, 100% of Vanuatu’s population and GDP are located in a tropical cyclone prone area. (Magee et al., 2016) Other extreme weather such as prolong dry periods due to ENSO phenomena has also put pressure on human lives and sustainable development for Vanuatu. Vanuatu is considered the most vulnerable nation in the world to the threat of natural hazards including climate change (World Bank, 2015).
Rising ocean temperatures resulting from climate change will also have a big impact on marine fisheries by changing habitat temperatures which will significantly influence their metabolism, growth, reproduction, and distribution. Dey et al. (2016) find out that fish demand in Vanuatu will increase, however growth in domestic fish production is projected to slow due to climate change. Fishery being one of the most important sources of food for many SIDS is thus, threatened (Eriksson et al., 2017). Other impacts that Vanuatu but also other SIDS are experiencing already include sea-level rise, coastal erosion, and ocean acidification. These developments are not only a risk to food security but also to tourism, which is for many SIDS the most significant sector of their economy. Tourism is increasingly one of the key foreign exchange earners for Vanuatu (Vanuatu Government, 2007). Thus, Climate change threatens the economies and the eradication of poverty, frustrating the countries’ efforts to achieve sustainable development.
The climate -related health risk in the PIC’s include trauma from extreme weather events, heat-related illnesses, compromised safety and security of water and food, vector-borne diseases, zoonoses, respiratory illnesses, psychosocial ill-health, non-communicable diseases, population pressures, and health system deficiencies (McIver et al., 2015). For Vanuatu, the direct and indirect effects on health impact by climate related are mainly from extreme weather events, heat -related illness, water borne diseases , food insecurity and respiratory illness (McIver et al., 2016). The adverse impacts of climate change on the people and their livelihoods in Vanuatu will continue to be felt if the climate continues to change and that the only option of coping with these changes is through adaptation programmes and initiatives mainly at the local community level.
The main responses of government in tackling climate change issues is through adaptation programs (see Table 4.1). This is one of the primary policy objective of the Vanuatu government (VanGov) under the environmental pillar. Under this policy objective it states that to enhance traditional agricultural practices, focusing on disaster rick reduction and climate change adaptation (Vanuatu Government, 2016). Vanuatu become part of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1993 and Kyoto Protocol in 2001. Vanuatu submitted its first communication to UNFCCC in 1999 (Vanuatu Government ,2007). The ratification of the UNFCC has help Vanuatu committed to addressing climate change. Vanuatu step up a National Advisory Committee on Climate Change (NACC) which was mandated by the VanGov to oversee the coordination of all climate change initiatives and programmes emanating from UNFCC processes (Vanuatu Government, 2007).
Vanuatu government employed an ideal approach to adaptation which is pro-active, no-regrets approach and encompasses measures and strategies that can be implemented in the present with the aim of reducing vulnerability in the future. Many programmes and institutions have been set up to increases adaptation efforts and strategies to climate change. National Adaptation Program of Action (NAPA) was one initiative with an objective to develop a country-wide programmes of immediate and urgent project-based adaptation activities in priority sectors to address adverse effect of climate change, including extreme events. Climate change vulnerability assessment was carried out and five climate-sensitive sectors projects were determined mainly in agriculture and food security; water management; tourism; community based marine resources management and forestry management.
For adapting to the detrimental impacts of climate change on agriculture sector, the government of Vanuatu through agriculture departments has encourage diversification and improvement of agricultural crops varieties (Vanuatu Government, 2007). The revival of traditional food preservation and agricultural techniques were other adaptation options mainly for rural communities. For example, the system of bartering and shifting agriculture which have remain with the rural communities for many generations. This supports (Fletcher et al., 2013a) findings that traditional methods, and family and community involvement during disasters are some of the coping strategies use for adaptation in the South Pacific. Furthermore, for food sustainability, a process for drying and preserving cassava which is important sources of food for most rural communities was also introduced as an adaptation option for food shortage.
Smaller and low-lying islands of Vanuatu depend entirely on rainfall as their water sources. The changes in rainfall patterns during ENSO drought events has critical impacts on the supply of rainwater water. The government has responded through the distributions of larger rainwater tanks to increase rainwater catchment and storage capacity for the local communities to adapt through prolong periods of droughts. Also, the government together with other international NGO; s has set up water distribution facilities in the islands where supply of freshwater is accessible as means to transport water to area affected by climate change impact. For example, in 2015, water was shipped to the Shepherd Islands from Port Vila due to water shortage because of drought brought on by an El Nino event (Vanuatu Government, 2007). Other responses by the government of Vanuatu on climate change adaptation include relocation of settlements and relevant infrastructures such road on the islands of Epi and Loh. Replanting of coastal vegetable to protect coastline in many coastal areas.
The government’s commitment to include traditional knowledge in climate change adaptation offers further explorations opportunities to the objectives of this thesis. While, rural communities throughout Vanuatu have been adapting to the changes that climate brings to their environment for many generations, it is significantly important to explore and reconsider these adaptation techniques and to incorporate them into community -based adaptation strategies and policies.
This chapter provides a contextual background of the study site. The demographical, political, structural and socio-cultural aspect of Vanuatu were outlined. The structural concept of the setting is significant as it will aid in further discussion in chapter 7 on traditional knowledge incorporation into community-based climate change adaptations. The next will describe the methodology and why it chosen to be used during the fieldwork in Vanuatu.
In this chapter, I describe the methodological and research tools used in the study. I begin by discussing the field methods, focusing on the semi-structured interview methods and field notes. For analysis, I explain how field data is analyzed using thematic data analysis. Next, I provide an account of the challenges and limitations of this research focusing on the challenges of home-country research. Finally, I describe my position in this research, particularly about the fieldwork and the possible impacts it may have on the results/findings.
A qualitative research method was employed in this research to gain insight into the local people’s peceptions and the extent of the use of traditional knowledge in adjusting to climate variability and change in Vanuatu. This research uses analysed data from the fieldwork to interpret the use of traditional knowledge. Moreover, qualitative research uses an interpretative approach in understanding the participants actions, decisions, beliefs and values of their natural world (Ritchie, Lewis, Lewis, Nicholls, & Ormston, 2013a, p. 4; Taylor, Bogdan, & DeVault, 2015a, pp. 8–9). It contributes to the body of knowledge that is conceptual to life experiences, perpectives and the histories of research participants (Bryman, 2015; Chadwick et al., 1984, DiCicco-Bloom & Crabtree, 2006).
Qualitative reseach is widely used in other disciplines. It has been adopted in education, health , sociololgy and psychology disciplines from the 1980s through to the 2000s (Lewis, 2015). Qualitative research produces descriptive data based on the researcher’s own written or spoken words and observable behavior of the subject under study (Taylor et al., 2015, p. 7). Bryman (2015) & Chadwick et al. (1984) argue that qualitative research helps researchers deal with the subject in its natural world and allows the researcher to identify and understand the subject of the research deeply. Moreover, the research methods are flexible because the researcher can reprogram or alter plans based on unexpected discoveries during the research process (Bryman, 2015).
Qualitative research analyses data from fieldwork observations, in-depth interviews, focus group and written documents (Patton, 2005). This research project uses a semi-structured type of interview and field notes for data collections. These features of qualitative research design are employed so that data collected in the field could be analyzed for coding of themes. This research does not focus on hypothesis testing, rather it focuses on the interpretation aspect of academic research that uses this type of research design to explore and interpret themes and the particpants insight on the topic understudy.
This section outlines the qualitative research method employed during the fieldwork to collect data for this research thesis. A semi-structured interview approach was used in the field to collect data for analysis. I begin by discussiing the strength of the approach, then I discuss the weakness and provide an account of how I apply this approach in the field.
Semi-structured interviews involve a prepared questionnaire guide based on proposed themes which is designed to elicit more elaborate responses from the participants (Qu & Dumay, 2011). Baumbusch (2010) states that using an interview guide helps facilitate participant’s descriptions of their experiences without the researcher’s constant interruptions. The participants are asked similar questions in the same order systematically based on the questionnaire schedule. The data collected can then be compared, numerically transformed and quantified (McIntosh & Morse, 2015). In this research, I conduct semi-structured interviews with 25 participants on different traditional knowledge indicators they used to adjust to environment changes. The data was then compared numerically based on the usage level of each indicators by the interviewees. Semi-structured interviews are flexible, accessible and capable freely disclosing voice participants experiences in a way that they feel comfortable and in ways that they are able to frame and understand issues (Bryman, 2015, p. 314).
Many scholars use semi-structured interview methods (Adams i’hD, 2010; Baumbusch, 2010; Rabionet, 2011) because it allows for exploration of in-depth experiences of participants and the meanings that attach to these experiences (Adams i’hD, 2010, McIntosh & Morse, 2015). Scholars use semi-structured interviews to investigate indigenous natural resource management, traditional ecological knowledge and climate change adaptations in many parts of the world (Beaumier & Ford, 2010; Egeru, 2012; Hastings et al, 2012; McCarter & Gavin, 2014; Ribeiro et al, 2010; Seymour et al, 2010; Ugulu, 2011). For instance, Seymour et al. (2010) used semi-structured interviews to collect data to assist regional natural resource management bodies in better managing funds for environmental assets. Moreover, semi structured interviews were used to explore the perceptions of local people on the changes in traditional ecological knowledge in Vanuatu (McCarter & Gavin, 2014). Therefore, semi-structured interview was identified as the best interview method to be used in the field for this research thesis.
A semi-structured interview approach fit into this research, however, there were some drawbacks. Qu & Dumay (2011) argue that the understanding of the interviews may sometimes be elusive. Qu & Dumay (2011) further argue that words used during the interview process may have different meanings even though both the researcher and participants speak the same language. It creates confusion and sometimes vague interpretations. Also, communication during the interview process may be difficult for novice qualitative researchers to identify where to ask prompt question or probe responses (Doody & Noonan, 2013) which may result in relevant data not gathered during the interview process. Furthermore, McIntosh & Morse (2015) argue that even interviewees may feel inhibited to respond to sensitive issues. I noticed this while in the field, that some participants tended to hesitate in discussing issues that they thought could jeopardize their knowledge and values and instead diverted the conversations away from the issues. Moreover, interviewees responses may be emotionally affected if pressure is applied by the researcher.
I employ in-depth semi-structured interviews as the primary method for data collections for this field study. The decision to use semi-structured interviews was made because semi-structured interviews were the most critical qualitative data collection methods widely used in conducting field studies (Qu & Dumay, 2011). For well-informed results, there are processes of using semi-structured interviews that involve developing interview guides to analyzing the interview data (Adams i’hD, 2010). For this research , I manage to modify the style, pace and order of questions (Qu & Dumay, 2011) and do not interrupt the interviewees with prompt questions. I do however, note down issues that I want the interviewees to elaborate further on after the interviewees finish discussing the question. By doing this, the interviewees gained confidence and comfortably respond in their own terms and in a way that they think and use language without interrupting (Qu & Dumay, 2011). Furthermore, as an insider to this research, the interviewees were mostly comfortable during the interview process.
The individual semi-structured interviews were conducted between the 4th and 28th of January 2018. Each interview was approximately one hour in duration. A total of 25 interviewees (n=25) from 19 different villages within three districts of North Pentecost Area Council (NPAC) took part in the interview process (See Table 5.1 below). The participants were recruited based on their expertise and knowledge of the topic and the duration of time they lived in the study area. (Turner III, 2010). Most of the participants were eager and willing to speak after a message was sent verbally to them, and after they have read the Participant Information Sheet (PIS). Even though they understood the content of the PIS, they demanded further explanations. I also answered further questions from the participants and again briefly explained that their contributions to this research project could impact their understanding on using the traditional knowledge to improve climate change adaptation not only within their communities but other communities on Pentecost Island as well.
The selection of the location for the interview process was essential because it may affect the emotions of the interview process between the participants and the researchers. For this interview process, participants preferred that the process took place at their residences. Moreover, given the sensitive nature of the research topic, interviewees agreed to only speak to the researcher alone.
Source: Photos from fieldwork, January 2018
Both the participants and I agreed on the setting as the process of interviewing people required little distractions (McNamara, 2009; Turner III, 2010). Furthermore, the participants felt comfortable and very private from other members of the community. They were thus able to speak freely on the topic. The interviewee’s ages ranged from 40 to over 100 years, the oldest of the interviewees was 108 years of age.
Source: Fieldwork, January 2018
The evolution of human ethics emerged from two significant developments; moral philosophy and psychological realism (Fowers, 2015, p. 3). Fowers states that moral view is shaped by understanding impartial prescriptions for correct behavior which leads to psychological realism of the enchantment of moral education and moral action. In other words, the extent of human actions that determines their motives, characteristics and private actions are based entirely on how they conduct themselves internally and externally. Furthermore, Fowers argues that human ethics is the response of ethical questions based on seven domains of society. These domains include the duration and depth of human dependence, the requirement of forming an individual identity, the power of high fidelity imitation, the deep mutual interest in cooperation, the authority of social norms, the influence of in-group/out-group identification and the vitality of status interest (Fowers, 2015, p. 4). These domains illustrate that research with or on human nature is quite challenging and that necessary protocols and procedures must be adhered to when conducting research fieldwork. Guillemin & Gillam (2004) state that procedures on ethics usually involve seeking approval from relevant ethics committees if the research involves human participants. Portaluppi et al. (2010) further points out that these research procedures must respect the welfare and rights of the subjects (humans), including their cultural, religious and social customs.
This research thesis involves human participants; thus, ethics approval was required. An ethics application was submitted to the University of Auckland Human Participants Ethics Committee (UAHPEC) for consideration and approval. It is vital that UAHPEC justify research design and the conducts that will contribute to new knowledge. UAHPEC requirements for human ethics application was based on four fundamental principles which include autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence, and justice. According to the guideline of the UAHPEC, participants need to provide their dull informed content before an interview is conducted freely. That is why the Participant Information Sheet (PIS) and Consent Form (CF) are provided and that they highlight that participation is not compulsory and that participants were under no obligation to provide information unless they were willing to.
In this research project, the participant’s self-determination is treated with respect. The research participants were given the PIS and CF (see Appendix A & B) to determine if they are willing to be involve in this research. The participants thus freely consent to their participation in the research study. In a few cases where the participant found it challenging to understand the content of the PIS or CF, I was able to dictate and explain it to them. The benefits of this research are to get the communities to understand the values of their traditional knowledge in climate change adaptations. I was able to briefly introduce the research and the impact that it will have on their communities and others as well. The result of the research will be communicated back to the communities after the completion of the thesis. Most of the participants are enthusiastic that their contributions in this research could help other communities to adapt to the changes in climate.
This research obtains primary data from the fieldwork which involved field notes and semi-structured interview processes. Secondary data sources are obtained from other sources such as the ministry of climate change, Vanuatu Meteorology and Geo-Hazards Department (VMGD), the Vanuatu National Statistics Office (VNSO) and the National Adaptations Program of Action (NAPA). For this project, the secondary sources obtained are statistics, figures, tables, maps, regulations, and laws that are used along with the results and the discussion sections of this thesis. Sørensen et al. (1996) argues that secondary data sources are important because they already exist, require less time spent, the cost of the project is reduced, and they reduce the likelihood of bias. However, they further argue that the quality of selection and methods of collections may not be under the control of the researcher which may be impossible for validation (Sørensen et al., 1996). I used the secondary data to support the primary data and strengthen the discussion of facts within the results and discussion chapter.
The transcription of the interview data for this research took three weeks to complete. Notes from fieldwork and audio recordings of the interview were transcribed. McLellan et al. (2003) emphasize that transcribing of interview data must follow a guideline so that is systematically easy to organize and analyze the textual data using any analytical tools. All interviews recorded data were transferred from the audio recorder to a laptop to free enough space for the next interview during the fieldwork. There was an attempt to transcribe the interview data after every end of the day, but this was not possible due to the limited electricity in the area. All interview data, both audio records, and field notes were transcribed in Auckland. The data was not transcribed word by word but was transcribed based on the questionnaire guides and the questions asked by the researcher during the interview process. Keys statements and messages that related to the questions during the interview were transcribed into textual form. Audio recording technology was used in the field to collect data. It is very beneficial because it maintains the actual interviews and avoids loss of meanings and specific interpretations during transcription (Markle, West, & Rich, 2011). Tessier (2012) further argues that audio recordings bridge gaps between field notes and transcripts. It provides detailed accounts of the interview which can be written quickly and efficiently, thus reducing the time of transcription.
Analysing interview data after the interview transcript is complete is often difficult (Burnard, 1991) because it is an iterative process (DiCicco-Bloom & Crabtree, 2006). It may lead to a point where no new categories or themes emerge. However, there are stages of analysis using thematic analysis methods which helps to ease the analysis process. Braun & Clarke (2014) emphasize that thematic analysis offers a toolkit for researchers who want to do a robust analysis of qualitative data yet present them in a way that is accessible to non-academic communities. Thematic analysis is mostly a method for identifying and analyzing patterns in qualitative data (V. Clarke et al., 2013). While this research project works with the local communities on Pentecost in Vanuatu, it is vital that thematic methods of analysis is used to analyze data set from the fieldwork. Verbal interviews and open-ended responses to questionnaire items tend to be the root of thematic research (Joffe, 2012), thus, the methods employed in the data analysis for this project are essential.
Thematic analysis also has some drawbacks that may lead to inadequate analysis. Most thematic anaylsis ends up with deprived analysis due to the failure to analyze the data at all. The failures arise as a result of using data collection questions as themes, a weak analysis which results in overlapping, a mismatch between data, theory and analytic claims and challenges to work out theoretical assumption (Braun & Clarke, 2006, V. Clarke et al., 2013). I was very vigilant of these pitfalls thus I applied a six points checklist of criteria for good thematic analysis by Braun & Clarke (2006) which helped with the data analysis. Even though it is an iterative process, it is a flexible, easy and quick method to work with even if one has limited experience in using it.
According to Joffe (2012), thematic analysis and content analysis share many principles and procedures. However, thematic analysis analyses emerging themes from a data set to establish patterns that can either be deductive or inductive, and it facilitates the meaning of results made of the phenomena under study (Braun & Clarke, 2006; Joffe, 2012). Thematic analysis is very significant to this research because it can also be applied to an epistemological approach which is the primary feature that relates to the research question and objectives.
Using the six steps of thematic analysis (see Figure 5.3) by Braun & Clarke (2006), I familiarized myself with the data set by replaying the audio recordings and re-read the field notes and transcribed data. This process helped in identifying initial concepts within the content of the thesis. During the actual fieldwork, I took several notes after the interviews process which I thought were relevant to the research topic. The initial process of thematic analysis sets a precursor for developing coding frames (Burnard, 1991; Joffe, 2012). Secondly, I generated the initial codes, mainly to identify exciting features of the data across the entire data set. I developed the codes based on the transcribed notes by highlighting and applying them to a specific group or categories (see Figure 5.2). The coding process allows for themes to emerge from the aspect of the data sets. (Burnard, 1991).
Source: Author’s Own
Adopted fromBraun & Clarke (2006)
Searching for themes is the third phase of data analysis. Themes are a meaningful pattern in the data relevant to the research question (Clarke et al., 2013). Thematic analysis looks at manifest themes as a route to understanding more latent and tacit content of theoretical constructs for analysis (Joffe, 2012). Thus, understanding climate change impacts at the local community level and how traditional knowledge is used as an adaptation strategy can be explored thoroughly via thematic analysis methods. I identified the themes and collated the codes into potential themes. For this research, there are four key themes which the relevant data codes were grouped into according to, and they are facts and information (traditional knowledge indicators) , traditional management system of adapatations (management practices) , and values, beleifs and worldviews and the changes observed by praticipants on climate and social conditions . Furthermore, I also noticed that there were overarching themes which lead to developing tables that were used to sort the different codes into sub-themes as well (see Table 5.2). The next phase looks at reviewing the themes. I checked the themes for their reliability to the extracted codes and the full data set. This phase of thematic analysis method is vital as it gives some ideas on the different themes and how they could fit together so that it tells the overall story of the data (Braun & Clarke, 2006), and its relation to the research objectives and question.
The two last phases of thematic analysis involve defining or naming the themes and writing the findings. Redefining and naming of themes helped me to identify the most important themes from the data that relates to the research question (Braun & Clarke, 2006). Redefining and naming were used to prevent overlapping between themes and allow for emergent of sub-themes from the main themes. Furthermore, it allowed for the scope and content to expand during the writing phase of the results. I then gave names to the themes. Clarke et al. (2013) suggest that names given to themes must be punchy and informative so that the reader knows what the content of the theme is about. Below are the themes that were identified through this analysis method. Chapter 6 details the complicated story of the data used for this research paper. In the result and discussion chapter, I provide sufficient evidence of the themes within the data and an argument that relates to the research questions.
||Local climatic, astronomical and ecological information|
||Natural resource management (NRM) and Disaster risk reduction (DRR)|
||Values and belief systems|
||Perceptions of change (Climatic and Social Change)|
Source: Fieldwork, January 2018
There are always challenges in qualitative studies, therefore to be defensive, validation is needed so that data obtained for research is plausible, credible and trustworthy (Venkatesh et al., 2013). Venkatesh et al., (2013) propose three categories of validity for qualitative research which include how well a qualitative study was designed and executed, the quality of data collected and analyzed and the quality of interpretation that reflects the quality of findings that are communicated to other people. These were further supported by what Maxwell (1992) suggest as descriptive, interpretive and theoretical validity. All these authors refer to the process of checking the validity of a finding or conclusion through analysis or cross-checking with other sources. Depending on the setting of qualitative research, some authors concept of external and internal validation refers to in the analysis of data for this qualitative research (Ritchie et al., 2013; Sousa, 2014). Techniques of validity include triangulation, respondent validity and constant comparison (Anderson, 2010). Triangulation and respondent validation is useful in this current research. Triangulation helps to confirm and improve the clarity of research findings while respondent validation reinforces the confirmation of the contributions by participants (Ritchie et al., 2013a) through feedback on the researcher interpretations. It helps to pinpoint discrepancies and the researcher assumptions (Anderson, 2010) on the interpretations of the findings.
For this research, there are different sources of data collection such as interviews of local people who are farmers, pastors, and older adults and documents obtained from other sources such as Vanuatu Meteorology and Geo-hazards department (VMGD) and Vanuatu National Statistical Office (VNSO) to help in the findings and results. There were attempts during the fieldwork to get members validation on the first instance of analysis. This was to allow participants to respond to some of the interpretations which I doubted after listening to the audio records at the end of each day after the interviews. Member validation is significant for this research as it confirms the validity of the data analyzed and reinforces the continued collaborations between the researcher and the participants.
This section presents limitations and challenges to this research project. I highlight three main areas which I believe contributed to challenging the process of this research from data collections to data analysis. I briefly touch upon the limitation of qualitative research, the challenges of home-country research and discuss how my positions as a researcher influence this process.
Anderson (2010) states some limitations of qualitative research which include the quality of researcher and research, issues of inconsistency, time-consumption, acceptance within scientific communities and issues of anonymity and confidentiality that may arise during the results presentation. For this current research, it took roughly four weeks to complete data collection. A large volume of audio recorded data was collected through individual semi-structured interviews. Another four weeks were allocated for data transcription before the data was analyzed and interpreted. Data collection to analysis alone took roughly two months to complete.
Depending on the researcher’s position within the research setting, an outsider position as a researcher may sometimes affect the subject’s responses compared to the insider status. I discovered that as an insider, the participants are free to talk openly on the subject. I was thus able to inquire further into the topic of discussion. Only one participant was reluctant to be recorded due to being anxious about the tone of the voice in the recorder.
Another limitation is the quality of the researcher and research which Anderson (2010) suggests could be influenced by researcher’s personal bias and belongings to the research site. As a student researcher, I understand the values and ethical issues regarding conducting research. For example, I followed the protocols of adhering to the time that the participants agreed to be interviewed, which was usually in the afternoon or evening after each day’s activities. The interviewee’s consent are paramount in this research. I provided enough time to read through the PIS and CF before any interview process began. If they did not understand anything within the content, I explained it further to them. From these forms and verbal explanations, they were able to understand the content of the research and the researcher before making their decision. Other challenges suggested by (Ritchie et al., 2013a, p. 289) include readers unfamiliarity with qualitative research, what it can and cannot do, its methods must be explicit and concise, and its integrity which will allow readers to understand and accept the outcome of the results easily. Furthermore, findings or results are in story type form which require the author to make the story intelligible for readers. I would not have been so coherent if I presented the findings in graphs, but again textual descriptions are still a challenge which requires concentration and time during analysis and the write up process. Moreover, diversely presenting the findings and results avoids focusing on the main messages or themes which sometimes misleads readers.
I was very excited to do home-based research since I have not been to my country for a while, let alone my home island of Pentecost which is the actual research site. For this current fieldwork, I deliberately wanted to help local people understand and be more aware of the significant values and belief systems that have been part of their livelihoods for generations. Also, to help local people understand and be aware that their shared values systems and knowledge can help broaden communities to adapt to climate variability and change. Through this research thesis, I was fortunate to talk to different people with different perspectives and expertise on how best they used their traditional knowledge to live in harmony with the environment and how they valued their belief systems (worldviews) that made them quickly adapt to the changes caused by climate variabilities.
There was evidence of interesting and useful data available during the fieldwork for this study and especially with the individual participants that took part in the individual interviews. Conversely, there were some challenges as well. The study site consists of villages spanned over a large area which required traveling on foot as vehicle access was limited in most cases. Moreover, the foot walk on small tracks took several hours to reach the participant’s locations. The month of January is rainy season in Vanuatu. The traveling conditions coupled with the weather conditions continued for the duration of the fieldwork. However, I managed to complete most of the interviews in time despite the weather conditions. Protective cloths such as raincoats and waterproof bags were used to store audio recorder and notebooks to avoid damage by rain. Though snowball technique was used, most of the participants requested their own time and place of the interviews. I did most of the interviews during the evening after the participants returned from their gardening activities.
The availability of telecommunication and electricity were other challenges. Telecommunication network around the research area was inferior to the standard of been able to work freely without distrubances. Local people identified spots where I could get better reception, but that was closer to the coastal area mainly the beaches and on nearshore reefs during low tide. There were no electricity grids on the island. However, there was a small solar panel system that helped in charging the laptop and the mobile phones. Audio recordings for each day were transferred directly to the laptop. Regardless of the challenges, I was able to complete the field work including interviews, photo shoots, and general observations before returning to Auckland.
I came into this research with some understandings of the weather and climate as I was employed by the Vanuatu Meteorology, and Geo-Hazard Department (VMGD) before commencing my study here in New Zealand. My scientific knowledge of weather and climate is significant to this research as well. Moreover, I came from the island of study where the research took place on. I went into this research as an insider, native to the island as well as an outsider in the form of a student researcher and a government employee. I have dual positions going into this fieldwork. As a qualitative researcher, what we are told, the narratives we formed and shared with others are influenced by our position and experiences in relations to the study we involved in (Dwyer & Buckle, 2009; Greene, 2014)
The insider factor refers to the research conducted in the researcher’s society or social group. The decisive factor on the insider about this research is that as a researcher, I know the particulars of the area such as the culture, the context of the research, and knowledge of the historical happenings of the field site (Greene, 2014). For example, based on my historical knowledge of one of the study villages, I was aware that the first school was built there but was washed away by a storm surge caused by a severe tropical cyclone. This information was valuable because it allowed me as a researcher to dig deeper into finding on how the strategies they used could allow them to cope and adapt to the present and future changes. Another decisive factor is the interaction between myself and a potential participant. I found it natural to approach the participants, and the participants were happy to talk openly to me not just on the research topic but other issues as well. Moreover, the interview was conducted in the local dialect of the island. Local language or dialect helped in the knowledge sharing and construct trust for future collaboration (Louhiala-Salminen & Kankaanranta, 2012). I accessed the study site and even the interviewee’s locations with ease based on my insider status. Although this may be true about an insider position, Greene (2014) identifies several shortfalls in the insider research position such as the position being too subjective and biased. However, the ethical issues of this research sorted through the Participant Information Sheet (PIS) and the consent form (CF) which participants have access to helped to smooth the protocols in the study area. These forms were issued to defend the research and the researcher on the issues of credibility, transferability, dependability, and confirmability.
A researcher as an outsider studies the group which they are not a member (Dwyer & Buckle, 2009). As an outsider into this research project, I experienced many concerns that participants questioned during the interview process. Here, I included a sample interview script on how they see me as an outsider. For example, one participant stated that
It is possible to incorporate the concept of traditional knowledge into community development adaptation strategy; there is an attempt to do this in this village which will base entirely on the traditional way of living. We need you people from the government to support these ideas. We know our traditional way of living and how we can survive through the changes. Now the western ideology has influenced people, but we need to recover and follow those things that we are part of them (AHD4, 07/01/2018).
In this case, I understood, that being an outsider, the participants knew that they have tried to maintain traditional ways of living but there are challenges from western influences, so government support is needed. While talking to many other participants, they argued that western influence has slowly crept into the society which will be a hindrance to the young generation and their traditional knowledge.
With my dual positions as both an insider and outsider doing this research project, I contributed more to the research by sharing my insights through scientific viewpoints and accepting what local participants value through their traditional knowledge that sustains their livelihood for generations. I will elaborate more on the values and belief system in the results and discussion chapters.
This study used the qualitative method of thematic analysis from fieldwork to data analysis. Though there are some challenges throughout the process, I tried to minimize those challenges and focus on the positive side so that objectives of the research could be archived thus, the research question answered. The methods used were justified, and my positions as a researcher, both insider and outsider were well described. The next chapter of this thesis paper will focus on the results obtained from the analytical method used.
This chapter presents the results of my field research and applies the theoretical framework of TK outlined earlier in this thesis. Accordingly, I demonstrate that local communities in Vanuatu’s TK consist of three key components: 1) local climatic, astrological and ecological information; 2) natural resource management and disaster risk reduction practices; 3) and values, beliefs, and worldviews. In this chapter, I focus on the first two components (environmental information and management practices) and outline local people’s ambitions for and preferences about incorporating TK into community-based climate adaptation strategies. The second results chapter (chapter 7) examines the third component of TK (worldviews) and documents how local people’s perceptions of changes are closely tied to their overarching worldview and ontological understandings of the world around them.
In North Pentecost, local people use a variety of TK indicators for both weather (short-term changes) and climate variabilities and change (long-term changes). Local people identify the emerald dove behaviour and the blossoming of plants as being the most important indicators for identifying extreme weather and climate variability. Participants report that in the present day the use of TK practices for natural resource management and DRR, however, is becoming increasingly difficult due to the impacts of Western development, education, and scientific knowledge. The gradual erosion of TK due to globalisation and modernisation threatens to undermine existing risk reduction strategies and sustainable natural resource management strategies and engender greater vulnerability to the impacts of climate change. Accordingly, local people are enthusiastic about the incorporation of TK into community-based climate change adaptation.
First, I discuss the environmental facts and information regarding the variety of indicators of variability employed by the local people of NP. I focus on the magnitude of changes, short (Weather) and long (Climate variabilities) terms changes for climatic, geological, astrological and ecological indicators. I then discuss the changes observed by the locals of NP and I link these changes with scientific understandings. Finally, I discuss the adaptation strategies based on traditional natural resource management (NRM) and disaster risk reduction (DRR) with emphasis on food, water and built environmental adaptation strategies.
North Pentecost research participants report the use of specific phenological indicators (behaviour of plants and animal) and atmospheric and astronomical signs on a day to day basis to monitor environmental conditions and the availability of resources. Some of these environmental indicators are used to manage medium and long-term climate variability (across seasons, years or decades), and some for short-term variability in weather conditions (across days and weeks). For this thesis, I refer to climate as average weather expected within a month or more and weather is what happens now to what is expected within a week time.
Most participants (n=17) used fauna as indicators to monitor and make adjustments to variations in environmental conditions (see Table 6.1 & 6.2). Out of the seventeen indicators, four indicators were used for the prediction of extreme weather events such as tropical cyclones, drought, and heavy rainfall events. The rest of the indicators (n=13) were used for the prediction of daily and weekly weather conditions (weather forecasting). For example, snakes coiling around vertical tree branches indicate that rain is expected within few days. The tight coiling behaviour prepares the snake to collect the water when it rains. Based on the data, 18 (out of 19) research participants reported the use of one or more of the 13 indicators for short-term weather forecasting. Ants were the most commonly identified fauna used for the prediction of upcoming rain (identified by 22 per cent of participants), followed by Tilatilia (bush insects), earthworms, with snake, Singo, cattle and pigs are less commonly used. Since TK is held collectively, with information, management strategies, and types of knowledge held by different age, gender, occupation, and lineage groups, it is understandable that my research participants used different indicators for weather forecasting. Most of the interview participants were farmers and fishermen between the age of 30 to 80 years of age. Their occupations as farmers and fishermen prompt them to rely on the indicator of rain and wind direction for their activities such as clearing bushes and planting crops and for fishing. Not only in these activities, weather also determines when and how to practices their cultural and traditional rituals Thus, these indicators are vitally important for their decision making regarding their different activities.
|Type of Indicator||Weather Event||Descriptions of Indicator Behaviours|
|Cattle||Immediate rain/storm||Cattle crying indicates the next rain. When they huddle together, this also indicates rain.|
|Pigs||Immediate rain||Pigs are pushing the soil with their nose searching for water or moisture in the soil, sensing cooling of air which indicates approaching rain).|
|Ants||Expect rain||If you see a convoy of ants build their hills with very steep sides and moving pieces of leaves or food into them, then it indicates they are preparing their food for bad weather ahead.|
|Snake||Rain for few days||If you find a snake tightly coiled around a vertical tree branch and holding it very tight then this indicates that there will be periods of rain. The coiling of the snake prepares the snake to collect its water when it rains.|
|Itchy skin of people with Vitiligo||Expect rain||People with Vitiligo (white spot on skin) become itchy and suddenly scraping themselves, then rain is expected.|
|Painful Callous||Expect rain||People with callous start feeling itchy and slight pain in the callous area of their foot.|
|Grasshopper||Immediate rain||Grasshopper hops into a house, seeking shelter from the rain|
|Beetles||Expect rain||Lighting a bundle of coconut leaves, and you will see that insects are attracted by the light, but, if you see beetles flying towards the light, it indicates that rain will continue for days.|
|Earthworm||Expect rain||If you find an earthworm, on the surface of the ground rubbing its body on dry soil, then rain is expected with a few hours.|
|Tilatila (Bush insects)||Expect rain||Tilatila crying or making a unique sound which indicates rain immediately.|
|Swiftlets (Gabagaba)||Immediate rain||Swiftlets (Gabagaba) in numbers flying in the sky indicates next rain.|
|Wood Crab||Expect Rain||If you come across a crab in coiled tree roots that holds water, and if you see that the water has dried up and the crab is still there, it signals that rain will start within few days.|
|Singo (a type of earthworm)||Clear Weather Approaching||When it rains until a Singo, comes into the house and rubs its body in the dust, these signals clear weather is expected.|
Source: Fieldwork, January 2018
Participants identified the behaviour of insects as common environmental indicators. This includes ants, who gather food and prepare their hills with steep sides to allow rainwater to flow out when it rains. Local people describe the connections between living organisms in the lead up to changing weather conditions. Participant ALD4 described how a message is passed from one living organism to other to indicate the onset of rain. An insect that lives in the soil called Mwarivuvu informs Bwastilosi (earthworm). Bwastilosi then appears on the ground surface to inform Tilatila (ALD4,13/01/2018). Tilatila then gives a unique sound to indicate to all living things on the land surface to prepare for rain which sometimes may last for few days. This understanding of the connectivity of all living beings is rooted in the cultural beliefs of local people of NP. Again, the earthworm is also used here as an indicator of rain because of its involvement in the process of predicting rain when it appears on the surface of the ground during fine or sunny weather.
For forecasting extreme weather conditions within a greater distance (weeks and months in advance) local people in NP use a variety of indicators (Table 6.2). These are chiefly used for forecasting tropical cyclones and heavy rainfall events. Most interviewees identify that the emerald dove (n=11 or65%) is an indicator that they can expect a tropical cyclone to pass in the vicinity of NP during the forthcoming cyclone season. A participant AHD10, for instance, described the behaviour of the wild emerald dove as indicator of tropical cyclone activity:
If I walked in the bush and came across [an] emerald dove nests or eggs on wild ferns (Tectarialatifolia) or rocksnear the ground surface, then I knew that there is a possibility of a tropical cyclone during upcoming cyclone season (AHD10, 07/01/2018)
The emerald doves prepare their nests lower to the surface of the ground (as a means to avoid the powerful winds of tropical cyclones) several months ahead of the commencement of the cyclone season (1st of November to 30th of April the following year). The participants in this study consider the emerald dove a highly accurate predictor of tropical cyclone occurrences in the area. Local people are aware of the signs and of the traditional strategies that were used to reduce the risks associated with tropical cyclones. These include the storage of additional food, the preparation of gardens (including the planting of wind-resistant plants), ensuring that neighbours were made aware of the potential for cyclones, and the securing of houses (to ensure they withstood high winds). The use of tropical cyclone shelters is discussed in sub section 6.3.1 of this chapter.
The behaviour of other bird species (including Mansiroboe) are also used by local people as indicators of tropical cyclone activities. One interviewee reported:
Here, if I see a group of seabirds called Mansiroboe flying over land, then, I knew that a cyclone is near the island. These ocean birds only come on land during cyclone events looking for places to hide from the strong winds of the cyclone. (AHD6, 22/01/2018).
Source: Photos from google image
|Type of Indicator||Climate Event||Descriptions of Indicator Behaviour|
|Emerald Dove (Ground-dove)||Tropical cyclone||A ground-dove preparing its nest or laying its eggs on wild fern (Gasigasi), (Bwatmavoa) or rocks near the ground surface indicates that a cyclone is expected during the coming cyclone season.|
|Bwagoh (small reef Fish)||Tropical Cyclone||If you see a small fish called Bwagoh coming out from their home or hiding places into an open area, then it signals that a cyclone or the very bad weather is approaching.|
|Beach hoppers (Talitrus saltator)||Tropical Cyclone||Beach hoppers usually do not come out, but if there is the possibility of a cyclone in the area, you see them coming out from their holes, under stones and climbing on stones, leaves, logs near the beach.|
|Sea Bird (Laysan albatross)||Tropical Cyclone||If a seabird called Mansiroboe (seabird) flies over land, then it indicates that a cyclone is near the island. These ocean birds only come on land during cyclone events looking for places to hide from the cyclone|
Other types of indicators are also used for tropical cyclone predictions, including the migrations of seabirds from ocean to land (12%), behaviour of fish species (Bwagoh) and beach hoppers (6%). Most of research participants (n=17 out of 25) report they use fauna to forecast extreme weather events and take anticipatory actions in response to these indicators. Most participants were aware that TK-DRR strategies could be used but did not necessarily implement it. Instead, they were increasingly reliant on western weather forecasting and waiting for the imminent signs of tropical cyclones (such as storm clouds and high winds), rather than phenological indicators of climatic variability. The diminishing use of TK is a source of ongoing concern amongst TK experts interviewed as part of this study and will be explored more in depth in chapter 7.
In this section I discuss the extent to which different plants are used by local people of NP to forecast and make decisions in anticipation of weather conditions, including extreme weather events. Almost all participants interviewed did not indicate any use of flora as indicators to forecast weather conditions on a day-to-day basis. However, they did note the use of certain plants as indicators of seasonal variability and extremes weather events (see Table 6.3). Local people interviewed as part of this study identified six different types of plants that people in NP use as indicators to predict tropical cyclone, drought, and heavy rainfall occurrences. Research participants note how in the weeks preceding the start of the tropical cyclone season (1st of November to 30th of April the following year) the widespread blossoming of plants and over-abundance of fruits on fruit trees forewarn them that tropical cyclones are likely to strike during the cyclone season. Participants report that this indicator is widely used in many other parts of Vanuatu to predict tropical cyclone events with trees including mangoes, breadfruits, Vele (Barringtonia edulis,) allof whichwere mentionedduring the interviews.
|Type of Indicators||Climate Events||Descriptions of Indicator Behaviour|
|Tropical cyclone||There is an abundance of fruit on fruit trees. Some trees may have fruit popping out from the stem upwards and in large numbers This a perfect indicator of cyclones occurring during the upcoming season.|
|Dry season continues into the wet season & small jungle plant leaves start to drop||El-Nino/Drought||If the dry season continues into the wet season or the wet season does not start as expected, then we go into the jungle and check the leaves of small plants. If you see plant leaves start to drop, then this indicates longer dry periods ahead.|
|Leaves of Sileage (Pongamia pinnata)tree||Tropical cyclone||Sileage (Pongamia pinnata) tree leaves turning yellow and falling off the trees indicates the possibility of the cyclone in the coming season. This tree is the first to grow immediately after the cyclone.|
|Drought||Moss growing on the stem or trunk of trees to thicken the skin (cover-up of the tree) so that moisture is maintained on the tree. During droughts, the moss will dry and fall out including the thin outer skin of the tree, but there is still moisture to hold the tree during the dry time (drought).|
|Adomwae(Pipturus agenteus) leaves||Tropical cyclone||Leaves of Adomwae trees turn over with the lower part of the leaves visible from a long distance.|
|The flowering of Raramemea (Erythrina variegate)||Normal Dry Season||The flowering of Raramemea indicates time for slash and burn.|
Source: Fieldwork, January 2018
Sources: Photos A& B from Fieldwork, January 2018, C & D from google image
Other plant indicators such as the leaves of the Sileage (Pongamia pinnata) tree turning yellow and falling off the trees are also indicators of a forthcoming tropical cyclone. Other plants are indicators of the onset of drought conditions. As participant ALD1 states:
If I noticed that the dry season continues into the wet season or the wet season does not start as expected, then I go into the jungle and check the leaves of small plants if you see plant leaves start to drop, then this indicates longer dry periods ahead. I use the jungle because most of the living things live there and these are places that withstand many extreme events in the past, so it is the right place to show the extent and adequate strength of the extreme event such as drought (ALD1, 13/01/2018)
Two other flora are commonly used to predict dry weather, moss and Raramemea Erythrina variegate. Participant ALD1 describes how he watches the behaviour of moss to identify if drought is likely:
If I walked in the jungle or bush and discovered that most of the trees are covered in moss and that usually, these trees do not behave in such a way, I knew that there would be long periods of dry weather ahead, which may last for 2-3 months. Moss-grown on the stem or trunk of trees is to thicken the skin so that moisture is maintained the tree during dry periods. During droughts, the moss will dry and fall out including the thin outer skin of the tree, but there is still moisture in the skin to hold the tree during the dry time (drought). The tree will not die or dry up (ALD1, 13/01/2018)
Participant ALD1 further explains how his TK derives from his personal experiences and daily interactions with his local environment. His abilities to notice changes is highly localised and situated, and emerges from his personal, familial and ancestoral connections to place and ecosystems. As mentioned earlier by ALD7, TK is about the relational connections between all aspects of the living environment, with correct natural resource management (and adaptation actions) following on from those inter-relationships.
TK on atmospheric conditions, such as cloud appearances and shapes, wind directions, and temperature were widely used indicators of environmental changes (see Table 6.4). Local people’s TK of the atmosphere is regarded as the best indicator of short-term changes in the environmental conditions at a local level. Most of the interviewees use altocumulus clouds as an indicator of rain; whenever they see altocumulus covering up the sky, then rain is expected within the next day. Interviewees linked cloud movements with the wind directions. The observation of fast-moving, low-level clouds going in the same direction, for instance, was a sign that a tropical cyclone would occur within three days. Interviewee ALD7 described how he used these indicators in the days before tropical cyclone Pam struck Vanuatu in March 2015.
Before the Severe Tropical Cyclone Pam hit Vanuatu, I already saw the signs based on these indicators I am talking about, and I remembered telling the people in my community. Before that, there was an El-Niño, followed by hot and humid weather which is also an indicator of rain or storm. When I see that plants and crops damaged by El-Niño and that they are suffering, I knew that there would be another extreme event that will follow which will either be long periods of rain or expecting a powerful cyclone. The large heaps of clouds that I mentioned earlier appeared again before the onset of severe tropical cyclone Pam. I saw these four heaps of clouds passed, following each other in the same direction, I tell the people that a cyclone is coming our way. Again, if you can read signs and indicators from the natural environment, then you become part of the earth that relates to all living things, and you will quickly adapt to the changing environment (ALD7, 12/01/2018).
|Type of Indicators||Weather Events||Descriptions of Indicator Behaviour|
|Large heaps of Clouds towards the east hill||Immediate rain||Clouds appearing in large heaps on the hills to the east side of the island indicates next rain.|
|N, NW, NE Winds direction and clouds movement||Expecting rain with few hours||Prevailing northerly, north-westerly and north-easterly winds with corresponding low clouds movement.|
|Altocumulus cloud covering the sky||Rain||If the altocumulus clouds are covering up the sky, then this indicates that rain is expected during the next day. At night you would see it surround the moon.|
|Fast moving low clouds, calm seas and surface winds.||Approaching cyclone- cyclone within 3-4 days||A few days before the cyclone, there are calm seas and winds. Trees stand still without the effect of winds blowing. If the winds are blowing strong but the clouds do not move faster, then no cyclone is expected.|
|Southerly winds and clouds lying parallel with the island||Fine||If there is a long line of high clouds lying parallel with the island, then it indicates beautiful weather.|
|Hot and humid during the day/night||Afternoon or evening/night showers.||Sometimes it gets too hot and humid, and towards the late afternoon or night, you will feel fresh cold winds, this will indicate rain immediately.|
|Clouds appear red on the western horizon (Mera) (sunsets)||Fine weather next day||The clouds are reddish orange in colour with a thin line of clouds. It indicates that the following day, there will fine or good weather|
|Clouds appear red on the eastern horizon (Mera singwahelea) (sunrise)||Rain||If the Mera is seen where the sun rises (Mera singwahelea) it will rain.|
Source: Data from Fieldwork, January 2018
Research participants use observations about wind directions as a method to forecast forthcoming weather conditions. When the wind blows from a northerly direction, it brings with it hot and humid weather, which may result in rain occurring at times over the area. Other times, local people know that rain will fall within hours by observing the formation of large heaps of clouds on the hills towards the east side of the island. This again is the result of prevailing east and south-east trade winds that push warm air from the ocean up to the high altitude which result in clouds Forming. This type of weather is typical for a highly volcanic islands in the Pacific. Local people from NP employ their TK to forecast local weather conditions and make decisions about NRM. The line of clouds appearing red and orange in colour to the west (Mera), indicates fine weather is to be expected, but when it appears to the east (Mera singwahelea) then it indicates forthcoming rain. All interviewees report the use of atmospheric indicators to forecast weather conditions.
For extreme weather events, four indicators are identified by participants as key for the prediction of droughts and tropical cyclones. One participant describes his family’s knowledge about cloud formations that they use to predict tropical cyclones, and the ways in which other indicators are used in tandem to forecast and make decisions about anticipatory actions:
From my community here, you see clouds moving very fast in large heaps following each other, during this time the sky is clear. There are four large heaps of clouds following each other but very fast or speedy. These are the indicators that I follow with my families to predict cyclones. To confirm this, I must now go into the bush specifically to places where emerald dove (Mwaragi) are usually found. I usually find them sitting on stones or lower plants near the ground surface. Then this confirms that a cyclone is heading towards my island or region and that I must now prepare my food and houses. (ALD7, 12/01/2018).
The interviewee describes how before cyclone Pam hit Vanuatu in March 2015, they noticed “large heaps of clouds” and “knew that there would be a powerful cyclone”. Interviewee ALD7 further explained how he prepared for tropical cyclone Pam based on his observations of the environment and the indicators that he used.
When I saw those signs, I told my families and the people in the communities. We collected firewood, collected clean water, prepared our houses by putting coconut leaves, bamboos and banana stem on roofs. Water is saved because immediately after cyclones, all rivers, streams and ocean will be polluted by run-offs from the ground surface. I collected enough food, mainly those that can quickly destroy by strong winds of cyclone so that it can sustain my family and me during the cyclone and after the cyclone before crops could grow again. Most of the root crops such as wild yam, taro, and manioc were prepared to withstand strong wind. Cassava stems, taro and banana leaves were cut. Only bananas, papaws and other fruits trees were collected and stored away in safe places. After four days, tropical cyclone Pam came closer to our shore producing strong winds that destroyed most of the fruit trees and houses. (ALD7, 12/01/2018)
Local people use combinations of TK indicators to predict extremes events. For example, participant ALD7 used cloud type and movement, unusual behaviour of an emerald dove and El Nino events to predict tropical cyclone occurrences. ALD7 description of the use of these traditional indicators is supported by participant AUD1. AUD1 describes how land is connected to the atmosphere based on his knowledge and belief of the natural environment:
I believed that formation of rain lies within the land called Matanvanua. This person or spirit lives on the mountain tops. It watches over what happens in the lands including all single living things in the land. The works and behaviour of all living things on the earth (land) is monitored by this spirit. If it sees that nature is improperly treated or has been suffering because of heat, then it speaks to the atmosphere (Muganmahava). Muganmahava speaks to the three main winds that lie within the clouds to drop onto the land as rain to cool off the heat and give life to the living things (AUD1, 09/01/2018).
Atmospheric conditions are considered the best indicator of droughts by a large portion of participants (n=15), with other atmospheric conditions such as colour of clouds, continuous morning dew, and previous extreme weather events are all used to forecast future conditions (see Table 6.5).
|Type of Indicators||Climate Events||Descriptions of Indicators Behaviour|
|Continued reddish Orange or yellow colour reflections of sun during sunset (Mera).||Expecting long dry periods (Drought)||Observed reddish-orange or yellow colour of sun reflection on the horizon where the sun usually sets. Continuous appearance of this colour indicates the possibility of long dry periods (drought)|
|Continues morning dew||Drought (long dry period)||If there is continuous dew in the morning for almost a month, this indicates longer dry periods ahead.|
|Severe drought earlier (El-Nino)||Tropical Cyclone or periods of heavy rain||An extreme event such as El Nino may indicate another extreme event to follow.|
|Hazy (Like smoke) ocean||Drought (El-Nino)||I get up every morning and when I look at the ocean, if it looks like the ocean is hazy, looks like smoke and during the night the place is cool, this indicates there will be long periods of dry time.|
|A parallel line of clouds.||Drought||The line of clouds up high in the sky lying parallel with the islands and remain for a month, indicates|
|Hot and humid||Heavy rain or tropical cyclone||hot and humid weather during cyclone season – expect cyclone.|
Source: Fieldwork, January 2018
One participant described the scenario of Mera stating that, “the place where the sun usually sets is continually turned reddish yellow whenever the sun sets, and during its setting, it turns more red. We called it Mera. It indicates that there will be long periods of sun or el-Nino is expected” (ADH2, 26/01/2018). However, some of the participants refer to Mera as an indicator of fine weather, but sometimes the fine weather may be prolonged for one or two months. Similar predictions are made about periods of dry weather. A few participants note that if dry weather extended into the beginning of the wet season, they look for signs of leaves of small plants and moss on trees in the jungle or bush to forecast whether drought was imminent, and preparations needed to be taken.
Astronnomical features are used as indicators to alert local people of North Pentecost on imminent changes to the environmental conditions. More than half of research participants interviewed (n=16) use astronomical indicators for weather conditions and when to plant crops. The positions of moon phases (waxing and waning phase) are used as indicators for both rain and fine weather. One interviewee described how his community used the moon phases to predict the weather:
Here we follow the moon phase as an indicator of weather. When the moon is in a waning crescent phase, it indicates a good time here in my community. However, when it is in a waxing crescent phase it indicates bad weather, there will be windy and rain over my community not only here but around north Pentecost region. If you closely monitor the moon phase, you will be able to predict the weather over your area (AHD12, 9/01/2018).
Just under half of people interviewed (44%) as part of this study use the different phases of the moon as a predictor of weather conditions in their local environment. Participants not only use the moon phases to predict or tell the weather, but the moon phases also tell them when the best time is to plant their crops. Participants AHD14 and AHD4 argue that waning moon phase is the best time to plant and result in good and productive harvests. Participants argue that planting at the right times contributes to better harvests, which maintains food security.
Participants also observe ocean current and swell waves for signs of the imminent arrival of tropical cyclones. The behaviour of the ocean is seen as the final warning for local people to make last preparations before a cyclone strikes their community (AHD3, 26/01/2018). Two interviewees describe how they observe the behaviour of swells:
The sea behaviour can indicate the approaching cyclone. Once the winds start to blow very strong, we send the kids to watch out for swells on a point called Singoetara, the two large stones called Singbwero, if the swell goes over the two rocks, they ran back and told their parents. The swells over Singbwero indicate approaching cyclones. The message is communicated to the rest of the communities and the last preparations are done ready for the cyclones. If the swell waves do not go over the two stones, no cyclones expected. The other signs are the swell in the open ocean if the swells are crossing each other or encountering each other, this indicates cyclone. However, if the sea is rough and the swells are coming in one direction; there is no cyclone. (AHD7, 08/01/2018)
Source: Fieldwork, January 2018
The local people of NP use a variety of indicators to anticipate variability and changes in weather and climate conditions. Their TK is based on their experiences and interactions with their local environment, which allows them to adjust their daily activities and prepare for extreme events. The most used indicators relate to extreme weather events (including tropical cyclones and droughts). Indicators are used in combination to confirm predicted weather conditions. However, all participants agree that the use of TK indicators to predict changes in the environmental conditions is slowly declining due to the increased influence of western knowledge, technologies, and modes of living, which will be discussed in regard to food and water management strategies.
Local people use a variety of traditional natural resource management practices, chiefly related to food and water, and disaster risk reduction strategies to manage climate variability and extreme events. There is evidence that some of these food and water management practices are no longer practised today, however interviewees are aware of historical methods and indicate a desire to revive traditional practices as a means of adapting to increasingly variable and changing climatic conditions (which is discussed in chapter 7). The participants argue that the reduction in the use of TK practices is largely due to western education and development. I will firstly discuss tropical cyclone shelters, then food and water management strategies.
All the villages I visited during the fieldwork have large community halls called Gamali (Fig 6.3) that are used for community events and as tropical cyclone shelters. The halls are made from traditional materials obtained from the forest and are typically 20-30 metres in length, 4-6 metres in width, and 5 metres in height. These community halls, used for community meetings, marriage and other cultural ceremonies as well as cyclone shelters, can withstand the strong winds of tropical cyclones when properly constructed with local materials. Usually, these houses are built in lower or shallow parts of the village away from direct wind impact and purposely sheltered from direct cyclone winds. The roof thatches run from both sides of the house to the ground surface. These techniques are designed to reduce the risk of strong winds lifting the thatches during cyclone events. There are no windows in the halls, only two doors constructed on the front and back of the building. Participants report that their villages’ Gamali has withstood many cyclones in the past.
Source: Photos from Fieldwork, January 2018
Only a few houses are made of western materials, but most of the houses in the study area are made of local materials using traditional techniques. In addition to house designs, interviewees describe the strategies they employ to prepare for tropical cyclones including cutting of green coconut leaves and use of bamboo on roofs of traditional houses (Fig 6.4) (AHD8, 04/01/2018; AHD7, 08/01/2018). One participant describes how:
For cyclones, first, we prepare our houses, putting heavy stuff on the roofs such as woods, green coconut leaves, and banana stems. The bamboos are cut and placed on roofs, tied to hold the roof thatches so that when the winds are blowing very strong, the thatches will not fly out (AHD7, 08/01/2018).
Source: Vanuatu Daily post Newspaper, 9 March 2018
Some participants also discussed other tropical cyclone shelters such as caves or stone holes and an underground shelter, which are less frequently used. The underground shelter is constructed out of an old damage steel water tank. The steel tank has been laid horizontal on the ground at the base of a steep slope and soil is dug and placed on top.
Previously, caves were important shelters during cyclone events, however they are not commonly used in the present day. Yet, participants report that when a tropical cyclone destroys all the houses in a village people will run to the caves as a last resort to survive. This is what happened on another island in Vanuatu (Matasso Island) during tropical cyclone Pam in March 2015. All the houses on the island were destroyed when the cyclone made landfall, but local people managed to escape to caves and rock holes to shelter from strong winds and rain. I was on the island three months after the cyclone where the local people showed me some of the caves they used during the cyclone (Figure 6.5). They retained their TK about the caves and ensured that access to the caves was kept free of vegetation so that they could use the caves during times of crisis.
Source: Photo from Field survey, July 2015 (Authors own)
Participants report knowledge of a variety of food crops that can withstand variable weather conditions and extremes, such as tropical cyclones or droughts. Key disaster resilient crops include wild yam (Dioscorea numularia), domesticated yam (Dioscorea alata), Fiji taro (Xanthosoma sagittifolium), sweet yam (Dioscorea esculenta), Wild Taro (Alocasia macrrhizos),cassava and sweet potatoes. These food crops produced tubes in the soil that are safe from direct impacts of strong winds (associated with tropical cyclones) and the heat of the sun (during droughts) (see Table 6.7).
Local people also employ a variety of traditional food management strategies to prepare for and recover from extreme weather events thereby maintaining their food security. For example, cassava stems are usually cut short to prevent damage by the strong wind of cyclones (Fig 6.6). Banana and taro leaves are also cut to reduce friction by wind strength. Wild yams are considered the main traditional disaster crop. Locals refer to wild yams as ‘money in the bank’. Wild yams can remain for many years in the soil without decomposing and can be harvested any time whenever needed in times of disasters. Participants recommend that all people in NP should be planting wild yams as an anticipatory risk reduction strategy for climate variability and extremes (with practice of planting wild yams declining due to the increased reliance on imported foodstuffs including rice). Another important root crop is wild taro (Alocasia macrrhizos) (Fig 6.7). As participant ALD1 describes:
Wild taro (Alocasia macrrhizos) is another food crop that can last for many years, even survived through extreme weather and climate events. The young middle part of the young leaves of the taro is removed to disturb its growth. All the leaves may fall off leaving the tube alone. The tube part of the taro gets nutrients (water) from the soil through its roots to feed on, and this keeps the taro for more than a year. These techniques have been practised for many years (ALD1,13/01/2018).
Source: Photo from Department of Agriculture-Vanuatu
Source: Fieldwork, January 2018
Source: Photos from Fieldwork, January 2018
The use of Maliudu forms part of other traditional food management practices used by local people in North Pentecost as a DRR or short-term adaptation strategy to reduce the risks associated with extreme weather events. Maliudu refers to small shallow or small valley areas adjacent to the villages where local people typically grow certain root crops and fruit trees for easy access during and immediately after an extreme event strike (most notably tropical cyclones). Trees and crops planted in Maliudu are a form of agroforestry. One interviewee claims that “…agroforestry or intercropping farm is important because you plant many crops/trees in one garden. Those that can survive during droughts or after cyclones could still be eaten or used” (AHD,26/01/2018). Maliudu are generally sheltered from strong winds associated with tropical cyclones. As one participant describes:
Maliudu are shallow areas or small valleys that plants and food crops such as leaf lap-lap (Heliconia sp), bananas, wild yams and other root crops or trees are planted there and are protected or sheltered from strong winds of cyclones and heat from the sun. Areas such as maliudu are regarded by local people as bank or reserves that can be utilised during hard times especially cyclones or drought, and during times when a visitor arrives, you just get food from the Maliudu. Also, Maliudu is essential for elderly or sick people who can no longer do arduous work and rely on maliudu because it is closer to their villages and homes (AHD10, 07/01/2018).
Sources:Climate Change and Agriculture in Vanuatu, September 2013
Vovohe (Ficus wassa)tree is one of the most frequently used trees as a source of food before and after a tropical cyclone event. This tree was described by interviewee AHD10 as the ‘wisest tree’ because the fruits appear from the stem near the roots up to the branches (Fig 6.9). When the cyclone wind breaks the branches, the fruits remain attached to the stem near the roots which allow for people to collect them as food after the cyclone. Interviewee AHD4 states that the Vovohe tree grows its leaves quickly after a tropical cyclone passes, making it one of the first fresh foods that can be eaten after cyclone events. The young fruits and leaves are collected, wrapped in leaves and baked in an earth oven or cooked in bamboo pipes.
Source: Photos from Fieldwork, January 2018
In preparation for cyclone season, domesticated yam (Dioscorea alata) are also stored in heaps in safe places away from animals. These yams are monitored so that any new sprouts that come out of a yam must be immediately removed. This allows the yam to maintain its freshness and taste when cooked or baked. This practice of yam storage is a critical part of TK management strategies that are passed on from generation to generations. The Mara produced from breadfruits is also a type of food that can last for more than a year, which contributes to community food security in the aftermath of disasters. Even though it is not commonly practised today by the local people, knowledge of the practice remains and it is one of the most significant disaster foodstuffs used in the past to cope with and reduce the risks associated with extremes weather events. Similar types of food that is produce from breadfruit is also practiced in the Torres and Banks group of the most northern part of Vanuatu. Local people acknowledge that the use of Mara could easily be revived with community-based adaptation strategies that encourage the documentation and revitalisation of TK techniques for managing climate variability and extremes.
184.108.40.206 Traditional Practises of Natural Resource Management
Pentecost Island is well-known for its “tabu” gardens, particularly in North Pentecost. Large hectares of land were equally divided and shared among the villagers to plant food crops, mainly yams. Tabu gardens are a form of food management practice that have been around for many generations and are embedded within the local culture of the rural communities. Another traditional food management practice is the coastal marine conservation area. The initiating of both the traditional tabu gardens and the coastal marine conservation area are carried out in conjunction with cultural ceremonies such as pig killing rituals. For example, in Nakgolum and Lavatmwagemu village, the chiefs have placed Namele leaves after pig killing rituals (see Figure 6.9) as sign of traditional tabu or restrictions on all marine resources for periods of five years but other places are open for villagers to use. One participant claims that:
these tabu on marine resources have with us for many years and have help us to maintain our fisheries supplies. As population increases and more people from other areas come to fish here, we see that the number of fish and other shell fish are decreasing. But for us here if you want to get something from the tabu area, you have to see the chief, he is the only person giving access to go there and only take enough for you (ALD9,15/01/2018).
Source: Photos from Fieldwork, January 2018
Natural resource management in NP has been part of cultural and traditional practices. It clearly demonstrates the strength and capacity of local people in resource conservation and food security. Considering environmental changes, this may bring challenges to the practices.
220.127.116.11 Food Productivity Based on Environmental Indicators
Local people also use the arrival of Palolo worms, the lightning visible from thunder clouds and the flowering of a special tree called Gaironmaho (Oxera vanuatuensis) (Fig 6.8) as predictors of the level of productivity in the forthcoming yam harvest season. For instance, “after the planting of yams when there is lightning visible in the sky, this indicates good growth of yam which will result in good production” (AHD7,08/01/2018). For Gaironmaho, if the tree flowers from the bottom stem to the top and the flowers are packed together, then the yam harvest will be good (high in productivity). Alternatively, less flowers are signs to the local villagers to expect a reduced yam harvest. Most of these trees are planted close to homes in the villages for ease of access and monitoring. One participant states that “…it is believed that this tree can only be found here [Vanuatu] and Africa” (AHD9, 09/01/2018). The use of trees to forecast the productivity of yam harvests is an important component of local people’s TK food security system as it allows villagers the opportunity to prepare other sources of food in advance.
Source: Photo from Fieldwork, January 2018
In the study area of NP, local people also relate the arrival of Udu (palolo worms) to the level of food productivity and for indicating future extreme weather events. Based on their traditional knowledge and years of observations, local people could identify the behaviour of arrival of palolo worms in three categories that relate to food productivity and extreme weather events. For instance, if the worms arrive as Udu Matala, then people usually associate this with usual or constant food production and the chance of a cyclone for the coming cyclone season will be low, while Udu Malageha is associated with abundance of food and farm or garden products are high in productivity. During these times, cyclones are expected. Udu Rara is associatedwith less food productivity and long periods of dry weather are expected (AUDI,09/01/2018). The accumulated knowledge of the natural environment of local people to the behaviour of palolo worms’ arrival also help them to manage food and to employ appropriate adaptation strategies for extreme weather events.
The availability and management of freshwater supplies is an ongoing challenge for local people in the villages of NP that took part in my study due to natural variability in precipitation rates as well as increased variability linked to climate change. The local people from Ahivo and Aute districts (see Table 6.8), who rely on rainwater for their water supplies, employ a variety of traditional water management strategies to manage rainfall variability, as well as western technologies (storage tanks). Communities in the other district of Aligu use streams as their main source of freshwater. Although they report that water levels decreased during El-Nino (drought) periods they are less concerned about water scarcity (both now and under changing climate conditions). The area of Aligu is less populated with most of the natural forest in their natural state.
|Water Sources & Management||Management Description|
Bamboo (Bamusavulgaris) pipe
|Water is stored in bamboo pipes for use during droughts, or bamboo pipes are used to collect water from far away water sources to the village.|
|Coconut stems are cut, and the inner part of the stem is drilled to allow water to be stored inside them during rainy days. This technique is done to increase water security in cases of dry periods.|
Water tanks (polystyrene & cement)
|The water tank is usually locked and open once a day. The rainwater collected during the rainfall events is only for cooking and drinking. Cement water tanks were built and upgraded to polystyrene water tanks which contribute in managing water during droughts and el-Nino. Almost every household has water tanks.|
Coastal spring water (Danu & Wai non Taga)
|Coastal spring water during low tide is used for washing and swimming. Spring water further up the coast is properly managed by building a reservoir to collect and store water for use by local communities.|
|Jungle water holes dug in the ground (Waironuhe)||Holes are dug in the soil to collect and store water. Usually, the holes are dug in the jungle or bushes. Water collected and stored here are used during long dry periods.|
|Streams/Rivers||Uses of rivers and streams for washing and swimming.|
|Water in large tree roots /potholes on rocks (Tumun Gai & vatu)||Water is stored in large coiled tree roots. The water found is carefully drained into long bamboo pipes and brought home for drinking and cooking.|
Source: Data from Fieldwork, January 2018
Previously, water security was a persistent problem for local people because there were limited ways of storing rainwater during drought events. One participant recounts how, “in the past, it is quite hard or difficult to find water” during droughts (AHD12, 2018). The “only source of water [at dry times was the] coiled roots of larger older trees that hold water (Tumu)”. Local people traditionally used a variety of methods to store water, which continue to be utilised to a greater or lesser degree in different communities. These include coiled roots of large trees, coconut stems, and dug ground wells. One participant recalls the TK water storage practice whereby “coconut trees are cut, and the bottom cut-stem standing are drilled using knives and sticks so that when it rains, it can hold water and this water can last longer”. In addition, he goes onto state, “there is a ground well where water is stored”. Similarly, another interviewee state:
In the past water could be preserved in large tree roots that could hold water. This water was safe, and we went into the jungle to cool off and look for water. The water found was carefully drained into long bamboo pipes and brought home for drinking. This water could be found in tree roots such as Namabe (Inocarpus fagiferae) and Dao (Pometiia pinnata) tree. Sometimes, we cut the coconut and palm tree trunk, drill and remove the flesh of the inside of the stem and leave open to collect water when it rains. Many trees were cut to collect enough water so that it can be used for drinking and cooking during drought (AHD9, 09/01/2018).
However, the introduction of western knowledge regarding health and hygiene and the construction of cement and poly water tanks is contributing to “erased all these things”. These new technologies “help a lot to manage water during droughts. Almost every household [now have] water tanks” (AHD12, 09/01/2018).
Most interviewees state that today water is more freely available due to the introduction of western-style portable water tanks and containers. However, they insist that even though western water storage is employed, they still use traditional methods of water management to supplement their use of western water storage and management techniques during drought. For example, they dig ground wells in the bush and wash and swim in coastal spring waters.
Source: Photos from Fieldwork, January 2018
Water is now stored in plastic and concrete tanks, which is used for drinking and cooking. A water storage tank can hold 6,000 to 10, 000 litres of water. The interviewees state that with proper management of water usage, it could last throughout the dry season. Some of the interviewees explain how they manage water during dry periods associated with natural variability linked to El-Nino conditions. This includes a mixture of western technologies (water storage) and traditional water management practices, with emphasis on community health and wellbeing. Rather than emphasize individual water rights and usage, water is managed collectively and strictly monitored. One interviewee reports that in in his community, the water tank is usually locked up and open once a day. The water collected during [dry conditions] is only for cooking and drinking, with people going to the coast to use the spring water at “low tide for washing and swimming” (AHD8, 04/01/2018). Similarly, another participant report on the usefulness of water tanks during long dry periods associated with El-Nino to store freshwater, which is “saved for drinking and cooking”. People rely on coastal spring water for washing, and for saving water. During these times, food is cooked using earth ovens or roasted on open fires rather than boiled or steamed (AHD5, 27/01/2018). In addition, gardening activities are altered during dry periods:
We encourage people to reduce weeding activities in their gardens, or if weeding is done, all weeds are kept over the soil to reduce moisture or water evaporating away. Bushes [are] not cleared. (AHD2, 26/01/2018).
Source: Photos from Fieldwork, January 2018
For the local people of Aligu district, water is reportedly less of an issue during droughts as they use streams and small rivers as their main source of freshwater rather than only rainfall. One participant from the area states that their “streams or small rivers do not get dry even during long periods of dry weather such as droughts, but you could notice the decrease in the flow and level of water. Now, we have water tanks that collect rainwater and stored for times like that, so we do not have to walk long distances to fetch water for cooking and drinking. Washing is done in streams that run down to the beaches” (ALD1,13/01/2018).
Source: Photos from Fieldwork, January 2018
Participants all concur that the introduction of western technologies to store freshwater has greatly enhanced their capacities to adapt to rainfall variability. The participants report that people who can build houses with iron roofing collect rainwater and store them in large water tanks (see Figure 6.11). Also, people who are educated and have jobs in cities and towns of Port Vila and Luganville are able to purchase water storage tanks and send them back to their home villages. Still, participants voice concerns about long term water security and report that during long, dry periods the availability of freshwater remains a source of worry amongst villagers. During times of water scarcity, most of the participants strongly argue that local communities cannot just rely on western technological solutions and need to remember and employ traditional water management strategies. This point is particularly pressing in the context of increasingly unpredictable rainfall patterns linked to climate change.
Local people express support for incorporating TK into community-based climate adaptation strategies, which would serve to enhance the capacities to adapt to changing environmental conditions and address local people’s concerns about the loss of TK. Participants argue that traditional management strategies are particularly useful for reducing the risks associated with tropical cyclones. All the interviewees report that local people are increasingly reliant on scientific information (chiefly from the Vanuatu weather office). However, often the information supplied by the weather office did not meet the requirements of the local people in NP and they reported confusion as to what weather conditions they were to expect and what actions they should take to prepare. This confusion increases their vulnerability to extreme weather events. Most of the interviewees argue that young people in the area do not follow TK or seek out elders to teach them about weather conditions, indicators, and resource management and DRR strategies. However, they all agree that some process of formally recording and incorporating TK into the design and planning of community-based adaptation, integrated in sustainable development efforts, would provide multiple benefits for communities. Such a community-led process to co-produced community-based climate adaptation strategies based on TK, augmented by Western scientific knowledge and technologies where appropriate, would maintain and enhance intergenerational transmission of TK as well as consider local people’s values, priorities, and adaptation preferences.
Participants argue that there is some sort of formal process of allowing for TK to be incorporated in or to provide the foundations of community development strategies. Participants maintain this is required because of the increasing emphasis within government, scientific, NGO, and religious discourses on Western development as the solutions to the litany of problems (poverty, corruption, climate change, natural hazards, gender violence) faced by Pacific communities. In the context of extreme weather events, one participant notes how “western development” means that many people’s now “use of mobile phone” to easily “access scientific information from weather office” and consequently TK “things are starting to disappear”. However, he argues that TK remains “very important because it is with you and you see change” and can take actions in response, and “you can still later verify information with other sources such as scientific information” (ALD6, 12/01/2018).
Similarly, an interviewee explains the shift away from planting disaster resilient crops with yams not being grown in higher amounts as occurred in the past “because of money”. Subsistence farming practices are being replaced by market-based activities, and people are not investing the time or resources into yam farming. Local people are taking temporary jobs overseas (namely in New Zealand as seasonal workers in the horticulture industry) to earn money rather than staying home and planting crops. One participant reports that “money speaks for everything now” with many local people from villages in NP moving from villages to live in the townships of Port Vila and Santo. The money people earn in the market-economy is used to buy rice, tinned fish and meat, which serves to replace many traditional food crops. The imported foodstuff, moreover, can “hold you for long periods of time” and serve as a disincentive to plant disaster resilient crops in preparation for the potential for drought or tropical cyclone events (AHD7, 08/01/2018).
There is a shift in the values of many local people with the influence of western knowledge and development, with western technologies for food and water management and housing design increasingly being implemented. For example, there is a shift from traditional houses to building modern concrete houses. Local people describe how iron roof houses can now collect rainwater to be stored in tanks that last through El-Nino (which often brings drought conditions), which they consider a positive change. The introduction of iron roofs and storage tanks represents a new adaptation that allows individuals, households, and communities to manage rainfall variability better. Other changes as well are slowing emerges such as the use of cash to purchase imported goods and the reliance on foods donated by an external organization or the government in the aftermath of tropical cyclones rather than traditional food management techniques. The use of such strategies (reliance on imported foodstuffs and external sources of support) are not necessarily sustainable and involves the loss of traditional DRR strategies. According to interviewee AHD7, many traditional food crops such as yams, Mara (breadfruit) are not produced at higher production rates like before because of imported foods such as rice and biscuits that make people lose interest in the traditional way of survival which is consistently available to them (AHD7, 08/01/2018).
There was consensus amongst the interviewees that national and provincial governments must support initiatives to employ TK in climate adaptation strategies. Some participants argue that it is critical that some elements (but not all) of traditional modes of living are revitalised, to ensure communities are best equipped to manage current and future impacts of climate change. Many interviewees report that at present the national government and its departments do not adequately recongise that TK can inform the development of community-based adapation strategies. Instead, emphasis is placed on top-down expert driven western scientific-informed climate adaptation planning and practices. Participants hope that participation in this research project, and other similar studies undertaken throughout Vanuatu and the Pacific, will highlight the importance of TK and encourage the national government to incorporate TK projects into climate adaptation efforts. Some local people suggest that rather than “western concept[s] of living … pushing aside” traditional modes of living, the government could encourage community development strategies based “on the traditional way of living”. One participant forcefully argues that” we need to recover and follow [traditional knowledge] or incorporate [western] knowledge … to work alongside with traditional knowledge” (AHD4, 07/01/2018) as a method to adapt to shocks, disruptions and changes in social, cultural, economic, and environmental conditions.
How to develop and incorporate [TK into] adaptation strategies: We can revive and encourage young people on the importance of traditional knowledge in this area, weather and climate. We start off by identifying young people who are interested in this area (AHD5, 27/01/2018)
We can revive these things only if the different communities come together and agree on things together. What to do and what not to do. Every society must agree on these things. These are important because respect is honoured, and rules are followed. We can work with the chiefs to revive these things (AHD7, 08/01/2018)
My community here is based on traditional knowledge. Today, many people do not follow the traditional or indigenous knowledge of the natural environment or how nature behaviours. It makes it difficult for people to prepare or adapt to changes that are affecting us now or will affect us in the future. If we enforce and revive these things, then it is good that we incorporate into community development through projects like this (ALD5, 13/01/2018)
Participants argue that community-based adaptation needs to go beyond simply focusing on the impacts of climate change, and include efforts to address community aspirations for sustainable development (for instance improved livelihood and education options) and concerns about the loss of TK.
This chapter presents the first part of the results. It identifies and highlights significant indicators used by the local people to adjust to changes in the environment. Moreover, the adaptive practices used to cope with these changes mainly with traditional management of food, water and shelter. This chapter also provides insight into the participant’s willingness to incorporate traditional knowledge into the development of community-based adaptation strategies. The next chapter will present the next part of the results focusing on TK (worldviews) and documents on how local people’s perceptions of changes are closely tied to their overarching worldview and ontological understandings of the world around them.
This chapter presents the next component of TK which are the worldviews systems and local people’s perception of change, both climatic and social change. I demonstrate how local people’s perception of change are closely tied to their overarching worldview and ontological understanding of the world around them. I also present in this chapter the governing structure based on secondary data from government and NGO documents. The information obtained from these documents will help in developing strategies that TK could be incorporated in the development of community-based climate change adaptation.
Local people interviewed as part of this research project, who were also considered tribal experts by their communities in TK, report their observations of climate changes based on their accumulated knowledge of local environmental conditions. They report alterations in rainfall events and temperature changes (greater hot and humid weather) in their area. Some participants linked these changes directly to climate change, but others are unsure of the causes.
Today, no one knows the exact time of rain, and it seems that there is more rain today than in the past. It is true that our climate is changing as per what you people are saying because it does not rain at its exact time like in the past (AHD7,08/01/2018).
There are changes to our environment, for example, the rain, when I was a boy, there were more rain or long periods of rain events, then, those periods of long rain events stop for some years and now it seems that those periods of rain came back (ALD5,13/01/2018).
I must say that there are changes to climate. Here, the environment has changed a lot. For example, sometimes during rainy seasons, there is no rain, the rain came later towards the end of the rainy season but not that big rain that used to be (AHD6, 22/02/2018).
The changes in the rainfall pattern has also altered the behaviour of flora and fauna that are used as indicators by people for forecasting weather conditions, making decisions about planting of crops, mangaing food and freshwater supplies, and preparing for extreme weather events difficult. Participants also report that sea level rise is visible along the coastline in some places (see Figure 7.1), which presents threats to coral reefs, beaches, footpaths, houses, and graveyards (AHD3, 26/01/2018).
Source: Photos from Fieldwork, January 2018
Participants also report that some people from their communities have voluntary moved further inland away from the coastal areas. Also, the shifts in local weather conditions and associated phenological indicators creates difficulties for local people who rely on their TK as a primary method to manage climate variability and extremes on an ongoing basis. One participant reports that indigenous knowledge centres on “living with the environment” and following and adjusting nature’s changes. However, climate change may result in some indicators that people used to anticipate changes and make needed adjustments in daily life no longer being correct. For instance, a tropical cyclone once damaged crops (such as cassava, sweet potatoes, bananas, and other vegetables) despite preparations, which people in the village had never experienced that type of damage before (AHD4, 07/01/2018). Another interviewee also states how he observed these changes:
Before, when I was a boy, cyclones do not happen often, and I remembered only one severe cyclone which destroyed many things. Also, it seems that rain also decrease and sometimes you have more rain in one year and it will take many years before periods of huge rain arrive again (ALD9, 15/01/2018).
Furthermore, interviewees AHD7 and AHD2 mention other noticeable changes. For example, there are more thunderstorm activities today compared to the past and these thunderstorms are happening closer to the land surface (AHD7, 08/01/2018 & AHD2, 26/01/2018). Interviewee AHD2 further claims that because of more thunderstorms, there are periods of huge rainfall events and these rainfall events contribute to large run off that have cleared blockage in many places to open up. This echoes the concerns about the uncertainties and future impacts of climate change, and fears that TK along will not be enough to allow indigenous and traditional communities throughout the world to adapt to climate change. The importance of thinking about co-producing new knowledge, which incorporates TK and western scientific knowledge is discussed further in chapter 8.
According to the local people, for the last few years the flowering and the fruiting of trees does not accord with local seasonal calendars and past timing of phenological events. For instance, the changes are visible on some fruit-bearing plants as described by these interviewees:
Mango tree sometimes tends to flower earlier with fruits ripen before its actual flowering seasons; then it flowers again during its normal flowering season. Here we see that mango flowers twice a year. But not often, it occurs occasionally. For this year (2018) mangoes have already been eaten before Christmas which is usually not normal. Mangoes remain through Christmas holiday and into the new year. Vele (Barringtonia edulis) once it flowers and developed into fruits (nuts). Moreover, even the nuts are not fully developed into maturity stage; it starts to flower again (AHD9,09/01/2018).
In the past, many fruit trees flowered during right season or timing that usually happens year-round, but for last few years till now (2018), we can see that the flowering of trees does not follow the actual timing. For example, watermelons are usually ready before Christmas and mostly eaten during the Christmas and New Year festivals, but now most of the watermelon is eaten during the beginning and further into the New Year. That is because of the changes in rainfall times that resulted in changing the texture of the ground (AUD1, 09/01/2018)
Other change observed by local people relate to the changing distribution and growth of plants. For instance, interviewees report that in the past, island taro (Colocasia esculenta) and cassava were only able to be grown in a specific area of the islands, however people can now grow island taro and cassava all around the island (including near the coast and in the interior of the island). There are also notable changes to when and how much plants blossom, fruit, and produce crops. One interviewee recalls from his father about the oranges being grown and how they blossom only in certain villages, ‘My dad told me that before in two villages called Lavusaulu and Hurilau, people would come from far away villages to get their oranges there, but today, oranges are see in every place. I think the climate has changed most of the things’ (AUD1,16/01/2018). Many of the local people interviewed described these changes as well:
Here in this community, before, we are not able to grow island taro (Colocasia esculenta), they don’t produce good harvest, and they often get damaged by taro beetle (Papuana species), but now Island taro is grown here, and it produces good harvest especially in areas that before they do not grow well especially near the coastal areas (AHD6, 22/02/2018).
Cassava (manioc) now grows well in the interior of the island that usually these areas only grow food crops like island taro. Also, island taro that usually grows in the bush can now be grown near the coast. These are some of the changes. It is because of the warming that shifts further inland making it accessible for these crops to grow. Another vegetable that was used to grow near a coastal area with good harvest is watermelon. However, now, it grows well in area that before watermelon did not grow well there (AUD1, 09/01/2018).
I think taro can grow now because before when our father clear the jungle here, the ground was thick and strong but as years passed, the ground get to soften up by people farming and animals such as cattle and pigs and as it rains the water from the jungle or bush further up the hill flows down and get suck up in the soil contributing to soften it which allows the taro to well now. Not only, taro but bananas as well grow very good here compared to the past (ALD1, 13/01/2018).
Thus, many of these changes in the distribution of plants and productivity of food crops are considered to be positive impacts of changing environmental conditions, which are contributing to enhanced food security at a local level. While these may be seen as the positive impacts of climate change in terms of food security in the area, nonetheless, the increased risks associated with extreme weather events and the loss of TK to sustain the NRM and DRR strategies are a source of ongoing concern for local people interviewed as part of this study. Participants argue that the traditional food management practices cannot be utilised to develop community-based community adaptation strategies that take into account local beliefs, governance structures, past experiences and TK, as well as changing social and environmental conditions, and western science and technologies.
This research uncovers that there are significant challenges to the maintenance and usage of TK for NRM, DRR, and climate change adaptation. These challenges are primarily related to westernization, with socio-economic and cultural changes in Vanuatu meaning communities’ modes of living and knowledge systems are rapidly shifting. Throughout Vanuatu, there is movement away from subsistence-based economies to market-based, a growing reliance on imported foodstuffs, western-style housing, migration to urban areas (such as Port Villa), and changing belief systems (influenced by Christian and Western education teachings). The interviewees argue that because of Western influences and development projects by the government and NGO’s, local communities are losing their traditional ethics and values that centre on the sustainable usage of natural resources. This includes deforestation, with one participant (AHD13) noting that all the “large and older trees” in the area are “all gone” due to overexploitation of forestry resources. “Western influences” the interviewee AHD13 argues are changing “most of the way of living” for people on NP, with local communities not planting or involved in actively “managing the environment in a more sustainable way” (AHD13, 09/01/2018). One participant (AHD7) blames a local doctor who introduces western ideology to the local communities:
…a local doctor called Dr. Philip Ilo, who came with the western ideology and it is seen as a destroyer of indigenous values and rules of custom knowledge. To my understanding, before, the ideology of the west came, there were rules of hygiene which are in line with traditional knowledge values and regulations. But when the ideology of the west came, traditional values and beliefs are slowly disappearing (AHD7, 08/01/2018)
Linked with these socio-economic and cultural changes is the gradual decline in the use of TK. Interviewees express concerns on how they observed these changes;
Today, people do not seek information from elders, and it is very challenging for them to follow these traditional indicators or signs of weather and climate extremes, they depend on the information provided from the weather office and sometimes it too late for them to prepare (AHD10, 07/01/2018).
Main food crop type which is yam is not produced at the higher rate of productions like before because of money. Money has replaced many things. Rice has replaced many food crops. It blocked people from investing time in yam farming. Local people go overseas for money instead of staying at home to plant. In my communities, most of the people are living in towns in Port Vila and Luganville. To my understanding, money speaks for everything now (AHD7,08/01/2018).
Participants also argue that population growth, western education and increased commercial development is directly contributing to changing the social life of the local people in North Pentecost. The interviewees further claim that the trend of knowledge in responding to environmental challenges and also how their society is organized and functions have decreased due to people’s preference of accepting western things and slowly disregarding the traditional. One participant (AUD1) states that “the simple way of passing on important information to other people has decreased or finished”. This is important in a rural setting aspect where information helps other people to develop and also strengthens the members of the communities. Participant AUD1 further argues:
People do not practice that today. I remembered when I was a child, my mother told us to bring some food and to visit other extended members of our families or relatives. In this way information about survival during disasters were passed and distributed among members of the communities. I think it is possible to revive the traditional knowledge of how to live with the environment, people can do these with the help of people like you (researcher), the community leaders, the women and every single people in this community. I agreed to work on these developments (AUD1, 09/01/2018).
While socially, local communities on NP have started to shift to western ways of living which encourages individulism rather than family and community cooprations. I argue that awareness on the importance of traditional knowledge and its recognition of climate change adaptation should be a priority. Local people will then understand that their way of living is also important. I conclude that although there are challenges to indigenous knowledge among the present generation of the local people of NPAC, there are still huge admirations of reviving some of the lost ways of knowing in these rural settings.
People’s observations and close personal interactions with the local environment is an important part of TK and forms the basis for the accumulation of new knowledge about climate variability and changes. However, this information and practical strategies are always situated within a specific worldview. The TK of NP community members I interviewed are inextricably bounded to their daily lives and their broader belief systems. Interviewee ALD7 aptly summarised the widespread view of the interrelationship between environmental information, NRM strategies, and spiritual beliefs:
I believe that the knowledge that the creator has given to the natural world which we are part of it happens through signs and indicators. For extreme weather events, I believed nature gave the signs or indicators months or weeks before onset of such events. If you do not understand the knowledge of the environment, you will not get it. For me, what I see here, life here is very simple and that all the people can follow easily. If you do not know what happens with the natural environment, then you will complain and later when a disaster strikes, you are the one that will suffer (ALD7, 12/01/2018)
A great deal of attention is paid to TK as environmental indicators and management practices, yet TK is fundamentally about how people understand the world around them. Worldviews are an often-overlooked aspect of TK research. Worldviews, values, and beliefs play critical roles in how local communities adapt to and plan for to the changes in their local environment. Indeed, traditional knowledge systems are strongly influenced by and a product of local cultural dynamic, religious dimensions, and are underpinned by ethical viewpoints (about what is the correct and incorrect behaviour to undertake various circumstances). Interviewee AUD1 explains how local people understand weather phenomena as being linked to the spiritual domain:
First, work on the analysis of rain lies within the land called Matanvanua. This person or spirit lives on the mountain tops. It watches over what happens in the lands including all single living things in the land. The works and behaviour of all living things on the earth (land). If it sees that nature is improperly treated or has been suffering because of heat, then it speaks to the atmosphere (Muganmahava). Mugabmahava speaks to the three main winds that lie within the clouds to drop onto the land as rain to cool off and give life to the living things on the land. (AUD1, 09/01/2018)
This explanatory story of how rain, wind, and temperature are formed and operate highlights how NP people’s ontological understandings of weather differs substantively from western scientific knowledge. For local people in NP the interrelationship between the material and the non-material, the physical and the meta-physical, informs how to interpret and respond to environmental indicators. The belief that humans are part of nature creates feelings of connectivity and belongingness amongst local people, with place attachment derived from these kin-centric values (humans as kin with all living and non-living beings in their local environment). This relationality wherein everything is bound together is summarised in the quote: “Every living thing on this planet has a chance to work and rely on each other to live. From human being to weather everything connects to each other. You cannot find anything that survives alone. Every living thing depends on each other” (AHD10, 07/01/2018). From a traditional NP ontological position, rather than perceiving extreme weather events as external threats or disruptions to human communites, they intrepret these phenomena as part of ongoing relationships and correct behaviour, which are vital to the health and wellbeing of the world. Tropical cyclones, for instance, as one participant states, “come to clear up the blockage in the water systems or remove the heat and stabilise the temperature” (ALD7, 12/01/2018).
For local people of North Pentecost in Vanuatu, their values and overarching knowledge systems are well vested in the cultural beliefs and religious views, which includes both traditional and modern (including Western scientific knowledge and Christianity) worldviews. In many ways, hybrid worldviews, which draw on ‘indigenous’ and ‘modern’ beliefs, are expressed in participants comments. Thus, while participants discuss how “all living beings” are tied together, and the importance of spirits in environmental conditions, many also draw on Christian narratives on a single creator or God, which differs from traditional NP spiritual beliefs, which were polytheistic. Participant ALD7 for instance, expresses the view that all knowledge comes from the “creator (God)” with people part of “natural world” and with nature giving people “the signs or indicators months or weeks before onset of [an extreme weather] event”. “If you have that [TK] and can read the signals … of extreme events, then you can be prepared in advance, and you will not suffer” (ALD7, 12/01/2018). Such events are not necessarily viewed negatively or as evidence of a so-called disaster by local people, unlike in some interpretations of Christian teachings, but instead are perceived as important for the correct functioning of the world. Far from adopting a fatalistic view of the world, many local people of NP hold hybridised worldviews incorporating ‘traditional’ and ‘modern’ beliefs in a way that emphasizes their agency (capacity to adapt and act in response to climate extremes and change) and the interrelationship of people to biophysical, ecological, and meta-physical entities.
Many participants however, express concerns about the loss of TK and the increasing emphasis on western teachings (including western science and religious beliefs) that often position people as separate from nature. Participants speak about how Christian beliefs, in contrast to traditional indigenous beliefs, emphasize that extremes weather events (and also climate change) are acts of punishment against local people from God. Changes to people’s beliefs, linked to broader changes in western education and scientific knowledge, Christian teachings, and a shift away from subsistence livelihoods, and the accumulated decline in TK transmission and usage are often perceived as greater threats to the health and wellbeing of local communities on NP than the direct impacts of climate change. Local people of North Pentecost argue that TK is the heart of their communities’ capacity to respond to existing variability in environmental conditions, and sustainability manage resources, and is by extension the key to designing sustainable climate adaptation strategies in the future.
The local peoples of North Pentecost’s (NP) continuity of occupation, and day to day interactions with and experiences of their local ecosystems, natural resources, and weather conditions has contributed to the development of their knowledge over generations and can inform their future planning in response to climate change. TK, despite decreased uptake, is still the basis of many everyday activities at a village level, and participants trace their capacities to manage climate variabilities, extreme weather events, as well as current and future impacts of climate change as closely tied to their abilities to employ TK and adapt it to changing circumstances (through connecting it to community-based adaptation and western scientific projects). One participant, for instance, declares: “The knowledge of connecting to the natural environment is the key of adapting to the changes in the environment” (ALD7, 12/01/2018).
Shared values are common within the traditions and practices of the local people in the study area due to strong cultural and family links. For example, most of the practices concerning food security such as ‘tabu’ garden and marine conservation areas are still practiced today and are a product of generations of adaptive learning. Such practices are recognized by participants as significant components in local communities’ food security systems. The impacts of climate change on marine life such as coral bleaching due to increasing sea surface temperature may influence people’s values on marine resources and affect their social wellbeing. At present, local people maintain their TK through the oral transmission of stories and folklore, songs and dances, cultural ceremonies, and daily and seasonal NRM and DRR activities.
According to the Vanuatu National Adaptation Program of Action (2007), the climate changes adaptation program is jointly implemented by both government and non-government organizations (NGO’s) such as Red Cross, Oxfam and other agencies with funding from donor agencies such as UNFCC, UNDP and World Bank. The process of implementing such projects must follow a mixture of dual governance structure which operates in Vanuatu (see Figure 7.2), traditional governance structure operates at the village council to area council and the western governances structure that usually operates from the central government to area council level. Policies and decisions on adaptation options are made at the national and provincial levels which do not fully represent the actual adaptation needs of the rural people of Vanuatu.
For the first time this year (2018), through the ministry of internal affairs, the Vanuatu government implemented a decentralization structure where each area council on each island in Vanuatu have an area administer. With the government installation of area administrators for each area council on each island of Vanuatu, the process of implementing Government policies and projects not only in climate change adaptations projects but other projects will be more convenient and realistic as suggested by many local people. There are projects relating to climate change adaptation such as footpaths and water security at community level implemented by Vanuatu Coastal Adaptation Projects (VCAP) in central Pentecost, on Epi, Erromango, Futuna, Aniwa and Anietyum island (VACAP project, 2015). However, sustainability of the projects is yet to be seen since most community-based projects are integrated with novel concepts from western ideology which do not involve day to day activities and practices of local people with the environment. In the context of the rural communities like North Pentecost, there are no government projects on climate change adaptations. However, there is awareness on the impacts of climate changes which are usually carried out by the government and NGO’s representatives. Local people used their own knowledge of adaptation when faced with natural disasters such as tropical cyclones or droughts
Many of the projects implemented are designed and directed by western ideology which in most cases, do not capture the concept of local people. Even though, the government encourages traditional knowledge practices of food management, traditional housing, practices of agriculture such as intercropping and other forms of practices to aid in the reduction of climate-related hazards impacts, little is done to promote traditional practices because the decision of adaptation needs does not always involve the people in the communities, who are the ones that are mostly affected by the impact of climate hazards. Moreover, local people like the communities of NP have their available traditional strategies of adaptations which are free and available, embedded within their way of living that should be considered and developed further to work along western concepts. As one participant argues’;
…using traditional knowledge to live off the environment is free and accessible. Unlike cash income, where you need to work harder to earn cash and it is not always consistent for future (AHD7, 08/01/2018.
Participant (AHD7) statement shows that using western concepts on smaller adaptation projects in rural communities will be very challenging if cash money is involved in the project. The sustainability of the project will be in question if the project comes to an end. Despite that, the incorporation of traditional knowledge will also be regarded as the best option for incorporating it into the development of community-based adaptation and requires the commitment of both the national and the local level communities.
Source: Fieldwork, January 2018
This chapter discusses the significant aspects as to why traditional knowledge is widely use in Vanuatu to adjust to current climate variability and change. The values and belief system that is attached to the lives of the local people sets a clear conscience that humans are part of the natural world and that humans are aware of the changes by observing the behaviour of flora, fauna and other celestial bodies as indicators for these changes. Also, it discusses the perception of people to changes in the environment, with two physical changes observed by the people, climate change and changes in the behaviour of plants. People perceive that lifestyle has changed due to western influence. The climate has also changed due to more rainfall and hotter summers.
In this chapter, I discus the significance of the results in relation to the research questions and objectives and link it to the conceptual framework (TK as consisting of three interconnected components: 1. local information; 2. management systems; and 3. worldviews) discussed in Chapter 2. First, I discuss the use of TK in weather forecasting and monitoring environmental conditions. I then discuss the use of TK in DRR and CCA focusing on community-based adaptation (CBA) strategies. Also, I demonstrate that TK can be linked with science based on indigenous knowledge and observations over the years. I also discuss different worldviews that connect indigenous people with the changes in the environment. Finally, I argue that although TK could be used to adjust to current environmental change (climate variabilities and changes), there are limitations that need to be considered and addressed. A proposed adaptation strategy on CBA is also outlined.
The majority of academic literatures focus on the use of TK to monitor and respond to local environmental conditions. Such environmental monitoring research and literatures generally focus on the collection of environmental information by local people as a method to detect changes in local conditions. This can include information about the health of ecosystems, the availability of resources, as well as weather conditions. For the research participants of my study area, as my results outlined, from the North Pentecost TK information is utilised for weather forecasting, NRM, and DRR. In this section I outline how my results link with diverse academic literatures from across the natural and social sciences, examining TK information for multiple, sometimes contradictory agendas, including weather forecasting, adaptive management of natural resources, DRR and CBA climate adaptation strategies. I first discuss my research into Vanuatu TK information about weather, specifically its use for weather forecasting.
A growing body of scholarship examines how TK is used by indigneous people to monitor environmental conditions and changes at a local level. Indigenous people employ TK to monitor changes in weather and forecast daily, weekly, and monthly weather conditions in Africa (Abegunde, 2017; Mengistu, 2011; Speranza et al., 2010; Zuma-Netshiukhwi et al., 2013), Australia (Leonard et al, 2013a), Asia (Anthwal et al., 2010; Hiwasaki, et al., 2014; Pareek & Trivedi, 2011), the Pacific ( Fletcher et al., 2013; Wildermuth, 2012) and the Arctic (Douglas et al., 2014; Weatherhead et al., 2010). Such information is derived through individual’s ongoing experiences and interactions with their local environment as well as collective knowledge transmitted through generations to key persons within communities, which allows people to monitor and identify changes in local weather conditions, and informs decision-making about resources and livelihoods (Pennesi et al., 2012a, Armatas et al., 2016; A. Nyong, Adesina, & Elasha, 2007b). This includes agricultural, hunting and harvesting activities, water management, and DRR strategies. Similarly, the results from this study demonstrate that interviewees (all elders) from North Pentecost in Vanuatu use their TK to forecast weather events and make short-term decisions about resource use and DRR strategies. Interviewee ALD7, for instance, used his TK based on a combination of indicators (celestial bodies, atmospheric and phenological conditions) to predict the onset of severe tropical cyclone Pam, which devastated Vanuatu in March 2015 (ALD7, 12/01/2018). A number of environmental indicators were identified by my research participants as being used to forecast approaching short-term weather conditions, seasonal variability, and extreme weather events, most notably drought and tropical cyclones.
Scholars argue that the capacities of communities to adapt to weather conditions, including natural variability and climate change, are enhanced when they are able to access, understand, and employ accurate forecasts for their daily lives and forthcoming seasons. Oftentimes, emphasis is placed on western scientific weather forecasts, and the need to provide communities with more accurate local-level weather forecasts. However, scholars from across the natural and social sciences are now recognising the use and usefulness of TK for weather forecasting, NRM and DRR, and are seeking to integrate TK with scientific knowledge or use for the co-production of new knowledge that incorporates both TK and western scientific knowledge to address the challenges posed by rapid environmental changes. Scholars from natural sciences, in particular, advocate for and are designing projects that seek to integrate TK with contemporary scientific forecasts as a mechanism to improve communicating of weather and climate information in remote communities (Zuma-Netshiukhwi et al. 2013; Plotz et al. 2017), enhance local communities awareness of and capacities to monitor the impacts of climate change (Lefale 2010; Plotz et al. 2017). In Africa, scholars argue that the integration of TK with western seasonal forecast information is successfully used to make local communities more climate-resilient by assisting farmers in making anticipatory decisions about forecasted weather conditions (Ziervogel and Opere, 2010; Ambani and Percy, 2011). The likelihood of successful uptake of the integrated forecast is increased when a participatory approach is taken to generating the forecasts and suggested management responses (Ziervogel and Opere, 2010; Ambani and Percy, 2011; Plotz et al. 2017).
National meteorological services in many Pacific nations are seeking to integrate into TK weather information and develop seasonal calendars as a method to improve climate communication with local communities and to provide seasonal forecasts that integrate TK with western scientific knowledge (Chambers et al. 2017; Plotz et al. 2017). My research similarly demonstrates the potential for TK to be used alongside western scientific meteorological studies to improve weather forecasts and understanding of the impacts of climate change. The rainfall data (See Figure 8.4) for the last 23 years from the Vanuatu Meteorology and Geo-Hazard Department (VMGD) for instance, reveals a steady increase in rainfall amount for Pekoa rainfall station (the closet to my study site), which coincides with interviewees accounts of increased rainfall. The increase in rainfall and temperature can be said to be a direct effect of climate change. According to Hay & Mimura (2010) and IPCC AR5 (2014), increase in heavy rainfall is anticipated for the Pacific Islands region as a result of climate change.
Source:Vanuatu Meteorology & Geo-Hazards Department(VMGD)
The mean annual minimum and maximum temperature (see Figures 8.5 and 8.6) for the wet season (Nov-April) during the last 23 years (1998-2010) showed a steady rise in the temperature. There were no weather stations in the study area except for two new rainfall stations just installed and in operation for the last eight years. From the perspective of the local people based on their observed change, the increase in both temperature and rainfall as a result of global warming have resulted in the unusual behaviour of some plants.
Source: Vanuatu Meteorology & Geo-Hazards Department (VMGD)
Source: Vanuatu Meteorology & Geo-Hazards Department (VMGD)
Personal observations and experiences of TK holders in North Pentecostal could be used to augment limited scientific data about local climate records and could also be used to compare the current weather events to the past events as conducted in global studies (Weatherhead et al., 2010a). Some scholars argue that Weber’s (2010) personal experience alone cannot be used to detect changes in climate (as it is too localised and a shorter time scale) and must be used along with scientific data. In my study, local people’s TK complements limited scientific knowledge about local weather conditions and demonstrates local people’s comprehensive and detailed understandings of changing weather conditions such as rain events and temperature– and changing availability and distribution of resources at a local level, which can inform western science. This information can also be used to develop community-based adaptations strategies centred Indigenous values and worldviews.
The variabilities in the rainfall pattern are caused by the fluctuation of the South Pacific Convergence Zone (SPCZ) that usually determines the rainfall amount in the Southwest Pacific Islands (Cai et al., 2012; Widlansky et al., 2013), including Vanuatu. These authors assert that once every 3 to 6 years during summer periods when the SPCZ shifted northeastward, there will be diminished or delayed rainfall events during the summer over the region. These findings are in line with what the interviewees mentioned during the field work. The changes in the rainfall pattern also determined the behaviour of floras and fauna thus may affect local people’s observations and adaptation planning.
According to the Fifth IPCC report, the increase in temperature will affect plant species behaviour such as early flowering and shorten the time of maturity (IPCC AR5,2014). This report further argues that relationship between climate and crop varieties and may bring challenges to communities in determining harvest and planting time. The prediction of long-term changes to the environment such as extreme events like tropical cyclones, droughts or heavy rainfall will become a challenge for indigenous communities’ knowledge especially for people in the study area. The responsive ability of flora and faunas will be challenged due to climate change. Hence, adaptation will also be a challenge for local people to cope with climate variabilities and change (Hoffmann & Sgrò, 2011).
This research recognises that although there are some observed changes in indicators behaviour, local people remained obstinate in using these indicators to see firsthand change and could make an adjustment to their adaptation options. However, they also argue that even though adjustments were made, they still need to verify their observations with another source of indicators and further information from the weather office.
Studies have shown that there is evidence of ecological responses to current climate change (Walck Jeffrey L. et al., 2011; Walther, 2010; Walther et al., 2002). In Vanuatu, according to this study, some plants tend to respond to the changes in the environment because of climate variabilities and change. Armatas et al. (2016) argue that traditional phenological knowledge improves resilience to ecological systems amidst climate change by providing indicators to identify and assess environmental change. The fruit-bearing trees are seen as an indicator that respond very well to the changes in temperature (Walck et al., 2011; Wolkovich et al., 2012). Recently it is observed that flowering and fruiting seasons have changed (Walther et al., 2002, this study).
Wolkovich et al. (2012) argue that flowering plants have high-temperature sensitivities to which they responded well with warming temperatures. Also, Kardol et al. ( 2010) and (Walck . et al., 2011) demonstrate that soil ecosystem could directly or indirectly respond to climate change through the interaction of water and warming. Plants and animals only behave or respond if their local conditions have changed (Walther et al., 2002). The local people’s perception on climate change regarding the increase in rainfall events (rainfall amount), temperature and observed changes in plant behaviours were well vested with the academic arguments of the authors.
Another change observed was mainly concerned with shifting, distribution and production of food plants. Individual species that respond effectively efficiently to climate change may affect their distribution (Walther, 2010). For instance, island taro (Colocasia esculenta) and cassava that were only grown in the specific area of the islands have seen a shift in the past years (Walther et al., 2002). The blossoming of plants and production have increased compared to the past. Kardol et al. (2010) argue that climate change could directly or indirectly affect soil ecosystem activities which contribute to the changes in how each plant species response and function. With these changes, plants tend to behave accordingly based on the observations by local people of North Pentecost. The changes in the distributions of plants like food crops have also contributed to enhanced food security in the areas that where these crops were not grown previously. While, seeing the positive side of climate change regarding food security in the area, , we must also consider the extreme weather events that will affect these crops and how local communities can cope with it sustainably. Traditional and indigenous knowledge of food management by the local people could be utilised as adaptation strategies to reduce impacts of these changes.
Not all traditional indicators of change that are identified respond to the similar magnitude of environmental changes. Several indicators respond to short-term change such as in weather phenomena including onsets of rainfall or clear weather, and some respond to long-term changes such as in climate variabilities and change. The most significant criteria for identifying long-term changes such as climate variabilities and changes is to have that local knowledge and experience after many years of living and interacting with the natural world (Pennesi et al., 2012). Lebel (2013) argues that phenological indicators may be used to identify changes in climate. This is because certain flora and fauna are highly sensitive to climate and are often the first to respond to changes such as species migration, distributions and behavioural changes (Hoffmann & Sgrò, 2011; Lebel, 2013b; Mengistu, 2011; Weatherhead et al., 2010). Similarly, the findings of this research demonstrate that local people identify or see changes in plants and animal behaviour due to their experiences, interactions and cumulative knowledge of the natural environment over many generations. For instance, the bird’s behaviour, the emerald dove preparing its nest on the ground or plants closer to the ground surface was widely used by local people to predict tropical cyclone occurrences for upcoming tropical cyclone season. Birds remain to be one of the best indicators of extreme weather in the Rajasthan region of India where local people notice birds preparing their nests further up the treetops or the hills away from river banks and plains to avoid flooding (Pareek & Trivedi, 2011).
TK indicators of environmental changes build confidence and improve climate predictions for the local people. It becomes a tool that communities or individuals utilise to monitor and identify next weather and seasonal climate events. Using interviewee ALD7’s descriptions on the prediction of tropical cyclone Pam in March 2015 from this study, it is essential to building a robust understanding of weather and climate monitoring using different traditional indicators as information for environmental change.
The academic literatures demonstrate that people who are involved in climate-sensitive livelihood activities (such as farmers, fisher and hunters) are often good interpreters of indicators of local-level changes in environmental conditions and employ these indicators in their decision-making in an anticipatory manner (Kalanda-Joshua, Ngongondo, Chipeta, & Mpembeka, 2011; Zuma-Netshiukhwi, Stigter, & Walker, 2013b). Through time spent on the land and in the waters and the gathering of traditional foods, traditional knowledge holders (in Vanuatu and elsewhere) gather interlinked and holistic indicators of both surrounding biophysical, ecological, and social contexts to inform local NRM and DRR strategies. Denesoline caribou hunters in Northern Canada, for instance, use multiple physical indicators (such caribou herd movement, bodily condition of animals, as well as plant growth and snow fall), to monitor the health and adaptively manage caribou populations. Similarly, my research demonstrates how the local people of North Pentecost in Vanuatu employ multiple indicators as a mechanism to increase their confidence about their weather predictions and to make anticipatory decisions about the use and management of resources, and to reduce climate-related risks. This aligns with the research of other scholars regarding the use of TK for environmental monitoring including Risiro et al., (2012, p. 564), Weatherhead et al., (2010) and Zuma-Netshiukhwi et al., (2013), where local peoples involved in farming, hunting, fishing and other climate-sensitive livelihood activities use a mixture of atmospheric and astronomical conditions as a means to forecast weather conditions and adopt anticipatory decision-making.
The result of this study also shows that blossoming of the abundance of fruits on fruit trees is one that is most used (71%) for predicting tropical cyclones and periods of heavy rainfall occurrences. Other scholars mention similar types of techniques of using plant behaviours as indicators of long-term, environmental change (Kalanda-Joshua et al., 2011; Leonard et al., 2013; Zuma-Netshiukhwi et al., 2013). By monitoring the seasonal production of fruit, communities note that the future production of similar plants can be predicted for the forthcoming season. For example, in Malawi, high production of mongo fruits in a season is normally associated with low rainfall in the coming season hence low agriculture yield (Kalanda-Joshua et al., 2011). This study highlights that abundance of fruit on trees such as mongo, breadfruit and Vele (Barringtonia edulis) trees, including fruits popping out from the stems in large numbers, is the perfect indicator of a cyclone occurring in the upcoming cyclone season.
International scholars and DRR practitioners are only starting to acknowledge the role TK can play in DRR (Hiwasaki et al., 2014) with emphasis previously focused on western knowledge and technologies, and strategies to reduce risks. However, scholars are now recognising the important role TK (also referred to as IK) plays in many local communities in the Pacific including Vanuatu. TK was and is actively used to reduce the risks posed by geological and climatic hazards (Gaillard & Mercer, 2013). My results demonstrate that TK is already employed by local people of North Pentecost in Vanuatu as a way to reduce the risks associated with food insecurity (often linked to droughts and tropical cyclones). Local people in NP, as I detailed in Chapter 6, employ traditional techniques of preparing Mara from breadfruit as a source of food security in anticipation for extreme weather events such as tropical cyclones and also the cut manioc stems to prevent damage by tropical cyclone winds. Furthermore, tropical cyclone shelters are prepared before the start of cyclone season each year in my study area as well as in other islands in Vanuatu. For instance, traditional cyclone shelters were used on Tanna island in the southern part of Vanuatu to save lives during tropical cyclone Pam in 2015 (Weber, 2017).
Past studies examine how TK (specifically information and management strategies) can be used to reduce tsunami risk in Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands and the Indonesian Island of Simeulue (Lauer et al., 2013; Rahman, 2017; Walshe & Nunn, 2012c). Similarly, in the Solomon Islands of Tikopia, their TK allowed them to anticipate and seek shelter in caves as a method of surviving tropical cyclones (Rasmussen et al., 2009), which parallels how many communities in Vanuatu use caves in the hills away from the coastline as tropical cyclone shelters. Other studies highlight how buildings constructed of traditional materials and employing traditional methods (such as Samoan Fale) can reduce morbidity and mortality during tropical cyclones, and are often more climate-resilient than western style buildings in Pacific communities (Handmer & Iveson, 2017).
Some scholars argue that TK can be successfully integrated with scientific knowledge for DRR and NRM (Hiwasaki et al., 2014b; Mercer, Kelman, Taranis, & Suchet‐Pearson, 2010a; A. Rahman et al., 2017; Walshe & Nunn, 2012c). The extent to which traditional knowledge has been practised and used for many generations while its integrations with western knowledge would not change or alter major shift in community adaptation. The only options or requirement is to recognise the capacity of this knowledge (TK) formally and to employ an inclusive approach that promotes and motivates indigenous people to further preserve and used this knowledge during natural hazard events. Disaster preparedness and local people’s resilience will increase when they make more use of their traditional knowledge (Weber, 2017). Gaillard & Mercer (2013) also propose consensual tools, practical frameworks and national policy change which could be used as a means for integration. Nonetheless, traditional knowledge will also always be regarded as a vital part of disaster risk reduction.
Many scholars argue that climate change adaptation interventions conventionally included in a policy which is frequent and facilitated by high-level government institutions (Ford et al., 2011) are mostly documented in the transportation, infrastructure and utility sectors. Local communities or groups are often excluded from making decisions on climate-related risks and have limited or no voice in climate change policy (Adger, 2010; Petheram et al., 2010) which in most cases they are vulnerable to the risk of climate extremes. There are significant cultural and traditional dimensions to how local communities respond and adapt to the climate-related risks (Adger, Barnett, Brown, Marshall, & O’Brien, 2013a) such as tropical cyclones, heavy rainfall and droughts. For example, some ways of adapting are based on traditional land, water and crop management, and physical infrastructure such as building stronger houses out of local materials (Lebel, 2013c). Traditional knowledge is essential to understanding and framing climate change as phenomena of concern for society. For example, this study reports a sea level rise observed by local people of Laone in North Pentecost, Vanuatu. As a result, some of the coastal people have moved to areas further inland Traditional knowledge could formally inform climate change adaptation and even mitigations by defining previous environmental baselines, identifying impacts that need to be mitigated, providing observational evidence for modelling and technologies for adapting, and identifying culturally appropriated values for protections from direct impacts or impacts of adaptation measures themselves (Williams & Hardison, 2013a).
Traditional knowledge could inform scientific research and create an environment for new social learning. Williams & Hardison (2013) demonstrate that linking science and traditional knowledge would result in knowledge for generations. Both pieces of knowledge (traditional and scientific) have been utilised in the Arctic where observations of animal behaviour, observed change of snow cover and wind changes are used to informed science(Weatherhead et al., 2010). In the Andes, meteorological models are not well suited to the complex topology of the area, so local-scale information is required for decisions (Valdivia et al., 2010). The scientists must have acquired a better understanding of original values that need to be accommodated in adaptation planning and in return, local communities may better understand climate and the climate change process at the global level and its effect on local climate (Williams & Hardison, 2013a). It is possible that traditional knowledge could be used alongside scientific knowledge for climate change adaptation (Mercer et al., 2007; Mercer, 2012). Mercer et al. (2012) argues that integrating of both local and external knowledge will build on local knowledge by high degree interaction by communities and projects parties based on respect, trust and understanding of different viewpoints. Furthermore, integrating of knowledge (local and external) helps to build and increase the breadth and depths of understanding in environmental management which is not adequately considered in contemporary approaches (Mercer et al., 2012).
These attempts at integrating TK contemporary science are not new, and increasingly critiqued by indigenous scholars for failing to recognise the different values and worldviews that underpin TK. The collection and use of TK information is often advocated by scholars as a way to fill the gaps in scientific data about weather forecasts, as previously discussed, as well as the quality, quantity and distribution of environmental resources, and the local level of the impacts of climate change (such as sea level rise and coastal inundation). In Australia, for instance, Yanyuma people have contributed some of their knowledge about the numbers and spatial distribution of marine animals to inform a scientific monitoring and conservation plan (Grech et al., 2014; Marsh, Grayson, Grech, Hagihara, & Sobtzick, 2015). In Guyana, local people (Makushi) are employed to carry out standardised western scientific monitoring of forests biomass and land use as a means to reduce emissions and degradation (as part of the REDD+ scheme) (Bellfield, Sabogal, Goodman, & Leggett, 2015) . It is unclear how Makushi TK fits in with the REDD+ as it seems to primarily focus on scientific knowledge. Indeed, while some monitoring projects are centred on community aspirations to conserve keystone culturally significant species or monitor the climate variability and changes, a large portion of such projects remain situated in scientific/technical knowledge and only employ TK in a piecemeal or tokenistic manner.
On the other hand, local communities have adapted to climate change over the course of history (Adger, 2010). Adger further argues that social capital plays an essential role in promoting sustainability and legitimacy of any adaptation strategy at the community level. For instance, social capital used in promoting and sustaining traditional natural resource management in North Pentecost (this study). Using social capital in building community-based climate change adaptation strategies is important as it is based on the perception of such change in the community (Adger, 2010). Social capital also provides access to natural capital for societies. However, to incorporate such community natural resource management into community-based adaptation will have to take a different approach (Lebel, 2013c). The action research approach of community-based adaptation to the problem of climate change impacts on livelihood at the local level (Ensor & Berger, 2009) and is different as it (must) connect/s with people’s original daily lifestyle. At the community level, strategies for improvement to crop planting and food systems (intercropping , system of Maliudu, preparing of Mara (Breadfruit), protection of natural resources (traditional marine resources and tabu gardens) , early warning (traditional environmental indicators ) and protection of water resources (preservations of traditional water sources, ground well and coastal spring water) are already well utilized (This study, (Mercer, 2010a). The connection between policy and actual practices of adaptation for local communities must be realistic in a sense that policy that is developed for local community adaptation must involve more local participation but not override the existing ways of traditional adaptation practices. Ensor & Berger (2009) demonstrate (see Figure 8.4) that adaptation in communities must allow essential practices and collectively held metaphors to be used to facilitate change within rather than attempting to force change from outside.
Source: Adapted from (Ensor & Berger, 2009)
To incorporate traditional knowledge into community-based adaptation is a challenge. Huntington, (2000) argues that TK remain difficult to accesses and must be documented as a project on its own before incorporating it into other undertakings. Traditional knowledge is an integral part of the values and belief system of the communities that connect them with their natural world (Williams & Hardison, 2013b). The trend of understanding traditional knowledge practices based on Figure 8.2 should be considered seriously before developing community-based adaptation strategies. It illustrates the concept of the level of understanding, importance and motivation for incorporating community-based adaptation. Most aspects of hydrometeorological hazards are embedded with the traditional and indigenous knowledge of local people, therefore to it is crucial that all sections of the society must recognise it as a formal process towards climate change adaptation.
More Understanding of TK
Source: Authors Own
The trend of understanding traditional knowledge is also an issue that could hinder the process of incorporation or contributions of policy to the development community-based adaptation. Chambers et al. (2017) assert that sensitivity of data might also be an issue as some critical knowledge is only shared among a few people or clan. Therefore, there should be more emphasis on policy development that points towards traditional knowledge understanding and used (awareness) in climate change adaptations at the community level.
18.104.22.168 A Participatory Approach to Community -Based Adaptation (CBA)
Speranza et al. (2010) claim that indigenous knowledge can be used in isolation to monitor the changes in the environment but needs to be accepted, valued and validated by all sections of the community. To incorporate traditional and indigenous knowledge into community-based adaption strategies requires a participatory approach. I design a possible participatory approach mechanism (Figure 8.3) that could be used as a pathway to incorporate traditional knowledge into community-based climate change adaptation. This mechanism supports Nyong et al.’s (2007) concept of transforming traditional knowledge adaptive capacity as a formal process towards broader adaptations strategies. I argue that indigenous and traditional knowledge must be experimented in isolation within the communities themselves. Adger et al. (2013) state that it is appropriate for individuals and communities to determine the goal of adaptation and the means of implementation within their understanding and views of environmental change. This builds confidence and trust among community members before it can be integrated with science. Supported by Nyong et al., (2007), indigenous knowledge practices need to be scrutinised just like any other technology before integrating it into development programs like CBA. Adaptive capacity of TK is more likely to be maintained when it remains in the people ‘s control (Gómez-Baggethun & Reyes-García, 2013) .
Community -Based Adaptation
Source: Author’s Own
The strategies of incorporating traditional knowledge into community development projects based on Figure 8.3 above will strengthen and recognise traditional and indigenous user’s knowledge. Two concepts by Nyong et al., 2007 could result from the participatory approach process and are outlined in Table 8.1 below.
|Acknowledge that indigenous knowledge has provided communities with the capability of dealing with past and present vulnerabilities to climatic extremes and other stresses|
|It encourages the highest level of local participation in climate change adaptation.
Source: Nyong et al. (2007)
Many scholars argue that there are implications associated with using TK for climate change adaptation now and for the future (Johnson et al., 2015; Lefale, 2010; Mercer et al., 2010). In the case of this current study, climate change has alerted behavioural change in flora by changing the times of flowering and fruiting of fruits. The changing behaviour of plants will give an incorrect signal to local people that relied on environmental indicators to identify the change. Most of the plants and animal indicators correspond to the traditional seasonal calendar for times of planting, extreme weather such as cyclones, fishing and preparing of gardens and also for cultural and traditional rituals. Behaviour changes will make local adaptations challenging for local people.
The use of TK for monitoring and collecting of data does not always cover a large spatial scale, mainly areas without settlements. These implications are not consistent with scientific understandings and usually, TK is not always used to inform decision making (Johnson et al., 2015). This coupling with climate change, means that past knowledge about changes and behaviour of animals and plants may not be easily comprehensible to knowledge holders (Lebel, 2013c). Therefore, under changed climate indicators may no longer work.
Traditional knowledge also involves the discussion of the impact of past events rather than what could happen or change in the future (Mercer, 2010b). While others may be seen as the only source of information on past climate or potential tools for adaptations, this may not explain the causes of change and solve the issues of adaptation (Lebel, 2013c). People must take into account that knowledge is continually evolving and that people may find new ways of adapting not only based on their traditional knowledge but from new locally developed knowledge. For instance, this study found that people of NP have evolved from using coiled tree roots and ground well for water storage to then use of cement and poly water tanks for water storage during droughts.
For traditional knowledge to be successfully incorporated into the community-based adaptation strategies, all community members must participate in the policy drafting of the project. The government and NGOs must work towards what the community wants to archive rather than on government policy (Leonard et al., 2013a). Traditional structure and hierarchy in the community that favours a patriarchal system which differentiates indigenous men and women with different roles, also leads to gender-separated knowledge and awareness about the community, climate risks and climate change adaptation. While this study does not focus on gender roles in climate change adaptation, the patriarchy system is still a dominate feature in many communities in Vanuatu. Other scholars found that there is gender separation when it comes to adaptations. (Sultana, 2009; Sultana, 2010). Women are mainly dealing with household things such as saving food stock and fuel and making portable stoves, while men do house repairs and manage overall family assets (Sultana, 2010). In Vanuatu, there is a mixture of responsibilities when it comes to food saving and planning, but males dominate the decision making on the household level. Vanuatu is traditionally dominated by men. Though there were changes in many aspects of how gender responsibilities are viewed in Vanuatu, little has been researched on gender and climate change adaptation.
Worldviews, values, and beliefs play critical roles in how local communities adapt to and plan for changes in their local environment. Worldviews are different across geographical space and time as they represent sets of presuppositions about the ideal nature of society according to what each group perceives based on risk (Leiserowitz, 2006). For instance, for Miriwoong people of Australia, views on the changes in the environment are seen as results of their disrespectful treatment of the natural environment (Leonard, Parsons, Olawsky, & Kofod, 2013c). Worldviews are mediated by social relations depending on the orientation of the individual or group. In the case of the local people of North Pentecost, values and knowledge are vested in their cultural beliefs and western worldviews that represents how they interact and views change in the environment. For instance, their interrelations to nature or the natural world are based on one principle that God connects people with nature through signs and indicators that prompt responses to changes (This study). From an ontological point of view, the knowledge of the local people of NP of the natural beings (humans and nature) and non-natural beings (spirits) are viewed as important parts of their life that allow them to make judgements as they continue to interact with the environment in daily activities. Local people for a very have come to understand the regularities in the world around them and recognise nature as a motivating factor for many patterns of changes (Barnhardt, 2005).
O’Brien & Wolf (2010) identify three significant reasons why values are significant in climate change adaptation. Values are subjective, different for individual and groups according to their adaptation options, and values are changing as society changes and develops. In the case of the local people of Pentecost cultural traditions, the values do not differ much when it comes to climate change adaptation. For example, yam stored in safe places after harvest is a tradition practised and used over generations before the concept of climate change adaptation emerged. Today, it serves both the cultural practices and can be utilised as an option for food security. The social structure on how local people utilise the natural environment is intact within their cultural and traditional practices. In this way, significant adaptation methods and practices to any environmental or social change are embodied in each activity they are involved in as part of their daily livelihood.
Despite the fact that traditional values have a significant effect on adaptation, there is a shift in how local people’s values change as society changes (O’Brien & Wolf, 2010). Accordingly, this study found most adaptation techniques and practices of food security that local people valued and practised in the past as options for adaptation have been replaced by fast and competitive techniques from external sources. For example, shifting from traditional houses to building modern concrete houses to adapt to strong winds of cyclones and drought. Local people with iron roof houses can now collect rainwater and store it in tanks that last through el-Nino periods (drought). The improved lifestyle and development have shifted and triggered local people to value easy and available sources for adaptation such as using cash to purchase imported goods or relying on foods donated by an external organisation or the government. These are short-term adaptation measures that are not sustainable and can only be allowed as supplements to traditional practices. The trend of short-term adaptation techniques is increasing mainly with people who have cash income through families in towns and overseas. While environmental conditions are changing, societies must respond by evolving and adjusting to these changes, collectively and sustainably.
This chapter has discussed the significance of the research findings and links it to the wider theoretical framework in chapters 2 and 3. Traditional knowledge is dominantly used by indigenous communities for weather monitoring and long-term climate predictions and DRR and CCA. Limitations to TK are in the areas of changing climate conditions that alert behavioural change, knowledge changing that leads to new knowledge and TK lacking to explain current changes. However, TK is more recognised in DRR in most cases. However, there are different worldviews that connect how people’s perceptions and views towards changes in the environment, and their overall understanding are that changes are expected, and humans must adapt by developing new knowledge through CBA or enhancing existing knowledge to fit current and future conditions of change.
This thesis has explored the uses and roles of traditional knowledge employed by local people on North Pentecost in Vanuatu to adjust to environmental changes. The primary focus for this study was to understand diverse aspects of traditional knowledge uses in environmental management mainly in environmental monitoring, management systems (natural resources management) and the values and belief systems that connect the entire component of the society which enable the local communities to adapt to these changes. After the recognition of traditional knowledge by IPCC in 2007 as an option for adaptation, there were many research studies carried out on this way of knowing and how it could be used with scientific knowledge for climate change adaptation (Nyong et al, 2007). However, this study took a different approach in focusing on the extent to which TK was used by local people in Vanuatu without integration of scientific knowledge.
I conclude this study based on five themes: theoretical contribution (section 9.2), methodological contribution (section 9.3), revisiting the research objectives (section 9.4), limitation of research (section 9.5); and future research (section 9.6)
The analysis presented in this thesis contributes to the majority of literatures from different corners of the world examining the uses and roles of traditional knowledge in local environmental changes (Fletcher et al., 2013a; Forsyth, 2017; Orlove et al, 2010; Speranza et al, 2010; Zuma-Netshiukhwi et al, 2013) that is claimed to be a causes of global climate variabilities and change. Most of the literature suggested that TK could be instrumental in building socio-ecological resilience for local communities in the face of natural environmental change (Berkes & Ross, 2013; Bohensky & Maru, 2011). More specifically this thesis has sought to elevate TK in a more practical understanding of its uses and roles in natural environmental changes at the local community context with TK specifically for environmental monitoring and information, for NRM and DRR and TK for socio-ecological connections that is based on indigenous values and worldviews (Chapter 6, 7 & 8)
In chapter 2 I reviewed the academic literatures which aid in setting the pathway for this thesis by exploring the different academic literatures on environmental indicators used to identify changes within the natural environment and the different traditional adaptive management systems that were theoretically discussed as options for natural resource management, disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptations. Theoretically, many scholarly articles outline a process for developing new local knowledge that can be used to enhance adaptive processes through integration of traditional and western knowledge (Agrawal, 2014; Alexander et al., 2011; Birkmann & Teichman, 2010a; Gero et al , 2011; Johnson et al., 2015; Mercer, 2010). Yet, the common view is that traditional knowledge must be intergraded with scientific knowledge before it is employed is still widely debated. While my thesis sits well with the few studies (Leonard et al, 2013; Okonya & Kroschel, 2013; Orlove et al., 2010; Pareek & Trivedi, 2011; Speranza et al., 2010) that highlighted TK contributions to adjusting to past and current environmental change .
While, contemporary approach of integrating TK with science have been widely debated, yet there were challenges in the research (Birkmann & Teichman, 2010b; Mercer et al, 2007). Based on my research thesis I found that the recognition of different values and worldviews that underpin TK is not fully understood and utilized. Chapter 8, sub section 8.4.1 provides an internal integrated approach which I argued should be follow so that status of traditional knowledge in a wider context must be fully acknowledge first by the local communities before it is externally integrated with other knowledge. Moreover, this approach aims to highlight the main aspects of TK that could be integrated with scientific knowledge to create new knowledge (knowledge production) and those that could be used in insolation or traditionally enhanced or revisited only by the local people for adjusting to environmental change. I found that traditional atmospheric and ecological knowledge could be used along scientific knowledge while traditional NRM & DRR strategies should be enhanced as form of adaptive management capacity (chapter 8).
The result presented in this thesis also identified socio-ecological changes to be a challenge for continuously maintaining aspects of traditional knowledge at rural community level. The local people of NP are facing challenges to detect and interpret ecological changes which in turn undermine their ability to respond to environmental changes. The traditional knowledge systems do have that in-built capacity to rapidly identified those changes (Petheram et al, 2010). But slowly this knowledge is not practiced or used due to social livelihood shifting that points towards more western oriented knowledge such as technologies , scientific information and increase in western education which is claimed to be devalued traditional knowledge . This thesis calls for wider research in socio-ecological changes in relations to current adaptation trends in the rural communities.
A qualitative methodological framework was employed for this research as outline in Chapter 5. Semi-structured interviews method was used to collected primary data in the field while secondary data was obtained from government publications and policy documents which helped to understand the issues of adaptation in the study context. Thematic analysis was used to analysis data. Analysing data using this method helps to present the results in a way that non-academic people could be able understand (Braun & Clarke, 2014) and use for decision making. Also, being an insider into this research is beneficial because in depth aspects of traditional knowledge adaptation to environmental change were discovered which I believed may rises new arguments for climate change adaptation in the Pacific islands.
This thesis brings fort two import methodological contributions to the field of natural environmental management. First, qualitative data obtain from fieldwork based on interviewees oral observations of environmental change (e.g. changes in rainfall duration and frequency, greater hot and humid weather and plants behaviour) could be used to inform scientific understanding of climate data used for assessing local change in climate (Chapter 8, sub-section 8.2.1). Similar studies (Alexander et al, 2011; Nakashima et al, 2012; Riedlinger & Berkes, 2001; Weatherhead, 2010) emphasis the importance of how traditional knowledge could inform science for the benefit of the local communities such as installing weather instruments and increase scientific studies (Weatherhead et al., 2010)
And second, this thesis shows that individual semi -structured interview approach used in the field was capable of identifying in-depth aspect of traditional knowledge adaptive capacity employed by individual people as a form of adjusting to environmental changes. Semi-structured interview allows for exploration of in-depth experiences of individual participants and the meaning that attach to these experiences (Adams i’hD, 2010; McIntosh & Morse, 2015). For this thesis, understanding individual aspect of adaptive capacity helps to understand the perception of approach to different individual towards natural environmental changes. Also, this method contributes to help inspire new avenues for further research in climate change adaptation in the Pacific islands mainly traditional natural resource management and disaster risk reduction.
The main focus of this thesis was to explore the extent to which traditional knowledge is used by local people in Vanuatu to adjust to current climate variabilities and changes and how TK could be incorporated into the development of community-based adaptation strategies. The focus of the thesis was guide by the following objectives:
- To Identify the Traditional Knowledge indicators used by local people to adjust to climate variabilities and extremes.
- To investigate what types of indicators are perceived by local people to be the most important to manage climate variability and change.
- To explore how traditional knowledge as part of indigenous belief system can incorporate into the development of community -based adaptation strategies.
The contribution of traditional knowledge to environmental conservation, and management , DRR and climate change adaptation is increasingly recognised (Berkes Fikret, Colding Johan, & Folke Carl, 2000; Gadgil, Berkes, & Folke, 1993; Lebel, 2013; Uprety, Asselin, Bergeron, Doyon, & Boucher, 2012; Uprety et al., 2012). Scientist and indigenous experts came together to exchanges knowledge to tackle climate change and how to reduce vulnerabilities to natural disasters (Williams & Hardison, 2013). Using community-based adaptation as an avenue where science and traditional knowledge could be utilised for sustainability of resources is widely debated. While this research argue that community-based adaptation should focus more on existing traditional techniques that were already utilised and used by local people. Also, policy development should formally recognise traditional technique of adaptation before integrating with scientific knowledge. Below I summarise the objectives of the thesis in relation with the results (Chapter 6 & 7).
This research achieved it first objective by highlighting how traditional knowledge is used by local people in North Pentecost to inform climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction discussion. In chapter 6, section 6.2 demonstrate the findings of the traditional indicators used for both traditional weather monitoring and climate predictions based on the behaviour of faunas and floras. This is in line with the first objective of the research. Some of these indicators are useful for predicting extremes weather events such as cyclones (emerald dove) and droughts (moss) which prompt preparation for such extreme events. However, the main challenges would be the changing of climate which alert behavioural changes in plants and animals.
Based on objective one, few environmental indicators were identified as the most important for use to management climate variability and change. Emerald dove and blossoming of plants and fruits are best indicators of tropical cyclone occurrences. Section 6.3 of chapter 6 discussed the traditional natural resources management and disaster risk reductions strategies used to adapt to these changes. The traditional built and non-built environment such as Gamali and caves are used as tropical cyclone shelter. The Gamali is specific designed using local materials to withstand powerful winds of tropical cyclone. This was evident on Tanna island in the southern part of Vanuatu , where a traditional constructed house save over 15 people during severe tropical cyclone Pam (Category 5) in early March 2015 (Weber, 2017). The challenges were also discussed in relation to people shifting to building western type houses. Using western type houses also brings opportunities and challenges. People see opportunities and shift or upgrade their standard of living while the opposite side is that materials used are very expensive and have to be imported from outside the area and also during severe cyclones, materials used for western houses are seen as very unsafe as they (imported materials) can fly and causes damage to people and animals.
Section 6.3 in chapter 6 discusses traditional food management strategies, the second objective investigates traditional techniques local people used to adapt to the climate variability and extremes based on most significant indicators of extreme environmental change . Fletcher et al. (2013) found that traditional coping strategies are consistently being applied as part of response to disaster risk reduction and climate changes adaptation. Outstanding in the findings were the food crops that could be further utilise and use as adaptation strategies for food security during extremes events such as cyclones and droughts. Crops like wild yam (Dioscorea numularia), domesticated yam (Dioscorea alata), island taro (Colocasia esculenta), Fijian taro (Xanthosoma sagittifolium) and sweet yam (Dioscorea esculenta). These crops have their tubes underground which are safe from powerful winds of cyclone and from direct heat from the sun. Other types of plants used as food to sustain the supply of foods after extreme weather events such as Vovohe (Ficus wassa), Gasigasi (Tectaria latifolia) and Bwatmavoa (Pteris comans). Traditional techniques of preparing Mara (a type of food produce from breadfruit) using sea water to preserve and maintain the taste of the breadfruit after a year or more. Traditional techniques have been used in the past as a form of food security during extreme weather events such as tropical cyclones.
There were shift in planting disaster foods to more western foods among new generations due to globalization (Campbell, 2015) which has become a concern for TK in Vanuatu. Revisiting traditional way of food security has become a challenge for many local communities because of fear of not accepted in contemporary society. While, local people of NP have indicated the revival of these traditional techniques, security of food during extreme events will always be a challenge. Acknowledging and persevering these useful traditional coping strategies can contribute significantly to helping the community integrate them in community-based adaptation strategies (Fletcher et al., 2013) . In contrast, the loss of traditional knowledge will put more pressure on adaptation strategies for local people and for the government to supply foods whenever a natural disasters strike.
While, managing of water resources during droughts were also found to be challenging for local people. There were shifts to better manage water in the study area. Local people used contemporary storage capacities such as cement and polystyrene water tanks for storing rainwater in preparations for drought events. Although, these modern techniques help to reduce stress on water resources, subsequently, it was reported by the local people that traditional styles of accessing water is still common and used as supplement to modern techniques. Prioritisation of waters usage were introduced to management water in tanks for cooking and drinking while swimming and laundries are mostly done using traditional water source like coastal spring and ground well.
The third objective of the thesis was to explore how traditional knowledge as part of indigenous belief system can be incorporate into the development of community- based adaptation strategies. Considering the values and belief system of the local people in the study area, it has been found that these features are deeply connected to the way local people use, interact and response to the changes in the natural environment. (Naess, 2013) argues that local knowledge cannot be detached from sociocultural context which it originated and is used. Yet, TK or IK as part of the belief system is less recognised by external scholarships (Birkmann & Teichman, 2010b; Naess, 2013). However, this study found that the key component of TK in understanding adaptation strategies are being implemented by indigenous communities for many centuries to adapt environmental change.
Social capital plays important role in the adaptive capacities of the local people in Vanuatu. Social network based on cultural and traditional linkage that unites people and maintain their cultural and socioeconomic activities during times of challenges. The characteristics of communities operate at the individual and society level that include beliefs, preferences, perceptions of self-efficacy and controllability (Adger et al., 2009) are important features to understand while trying to incorporate TK into community-based development strategies. These components of TK adaptive capacities are related to culture and highly valued as criteria for long- term adaptive strategies (Grothmann & Patt, 2005). (Adger, Barnett, Brown, Marshall, & O’Brien, 2013a) argue that contemporary responses to adaptation might not work if some of the elements of social life are at risk during integration process.
In fulfilling the third objective of this research, a participatory approach model (chapter 8: section 22.214.171.124) was developed as a strategy to formally acknowledge traditional knowledge as an adaptation strategy on its own and its importance in wider climate change adaptation. Using this participatory approach, it encourages all sections of the communities to participate and determine the goals of adaptation and the means of implementation within their understanding, views and respect towards natural environment and how it is changing (Adger et al., 2013a; Speranza et al., 2010). While, policy development of climate change adaptation at the community level including integration of TK into community-based adaptation must firstly follow this participatory process. Traditional knowledge must first be acknowledged by local people themselves as an option of adaptation before it is integrated with other form of knowledge.
There were few limitations identified while doing this research which may influence the conclusion of the study. The gender participation was not taken into consideration, also the research interviews were done only with the elders (men) but not all the sections of the communities such as women, and youths. Also, not all the areas in the study site were covered for the interviews due to time limitation and remoteness of the villages. Each limitation was discussed below.
While this study does not include gender roles in climate change adaptation, the patriarchy system in many parts of Vanuatu is still a dominate feature in many rural communities. While other scholars argued doing climate change adaptation research , there must be a closer look at gender as there is gender separated when it comes to adaptations. (Sultana, 2009; Sultana, 2010). For instance, women are mainly dealing with household stuff such as saving food stock and fuel and making portable stoves while men do house repairs and manage overall family assets (Sultana, 2010). In Vanuatu, there was a mixture of responsibilities when it comes food saving and planning, but males were the one that dominated the decision making on the household level. Vanuatu traditional structural including the high ranking level in the society is dominated by men maily to do with chielfly titles. Though there were changes in many aspects of how gender responsibilities are viewed in Vanuatu, little has been researched on the gender and climate change adaptation at large.
Time will always be an issue when involving or doing an interesting aspect of a research work such as this current research. During the field work, the researcher was not able to cover the whole area due to time constraint and coupled with unstable weather conditions for most of the 4 weeks in the field. There is wealth of traditional knowledge still with people who were not interview who would have enlighten and enhanced the understanding of traditional knowledge use in traditional climatic, farming and utilities knowledge in the study area. Though, this study may not be representing all traditional knowledge experts in the area, many of the participants who were interviewed were regarded by local people to be the stand out ones. All participants who were interview have been living in their respective village for most of their lives (>30 years). This research could be used to information climate change adaptation in other parts of Vanuatu and the Pacific Islands.
Reflecting on the methodology in chapter 5, there were more that should have been done such as including focus group discussion for data collection method and more wide range of individual interviews. As I mentioned earlier that the short time that I have in the field have been very productive in obtaining enough data for this thesis. Thought, there were no rejections from potential participants, there were more views and perceptions of local people would have been gathered during a focus group discussion. Focus group technique is important because participants present their views and experiences, listen to what other people said and allowed them to further their discussions (Ritchie, Lewis, Lewis, Nicholls, & Ormston, 2013, p. 171). For future research, there would be a wide range of views and perception from a wide range of participants (women, men, youth) including policy developers on local climate change adaptations.
While this thesis does not involve more high-level government official who are responsible in implementing climate change adaptation policy, I felt it would be appropriate to include them in future research. This will allow researcher to determine whether the extent to which policy are developed and implemented are in line with the goals and desires of the communities. In doing so, this will identify gaps in so that future developments on adaptation for rural communities could be restructured according to the goals of the communities themselves. Currently, differences in values create tensions or discrepancies between adaptations that are deemed rational and effective by governments and planners, and those that are considered important to and desirable by individuals and communities (Adger, Barnett, Brown, Marshall, & O’Brien, 2013b). Reinforcing bottom-up approach discussed in chapter 8 could be an ideal concept to be included in adaptation policies and practices for rural communities.
Based on this current research, two considerations arise for future research. Firstly, there is a need for further research on the impacts of government policies that connects community goals for climate change adaptation. The emphasis must be on policies that could influence and impose community acknowledgement on the values of their traditional knowledge in area of environmental management. For example, increase awareness on the use of traditional knowledge by communities for example the marine resources management and tabu gardens (bottom-up approach). Even though, this thesis has identified many uses and roles of traditional knowledge in disaster risk reduction (DRR) and climate change adaptation (CCA), little is still unknown about how traditional knowledge formally inform environmental management at the rural communities in Vanuatu including the Pacific Islands. With this, national governments must create policies that directly help to promote maintenance and restoration of living TK systems as sources of social -ecological resilience.
Secondly, expanding on this current research is possible through involving wide range of participants in data collection. For example including vulnerable groups such as women, disabilities and children in rural disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptations research. Carr & Thompson. (2014) argued that quite often men and women experience vulnerability to climate variability and change differently thus, responding to them in different ways. Future research on this issue is significant because society like NP are structured in a way that male dominates most of the decision making at the communities and household level. Also, expanding this research beyond the local context of the rural setting will elevate questions of resources equity that links to community adaptive capacity. For instance, lack of financial resources and infrastructure restricts availability of adaptation options (Smit & Pilifosova, 2003). The future research is expected to highlight the gaps in climate change adaptations with vulnerable groups at the village level.
This chapter has discussed the objectives in relation to the results. In doing so, it connects and links the overall thesis objectives and answer the research questions. It has also discussed the limitation of this research focussing on the overall lack of representation in data collected during the interviews. Gender (female) representation were raised that should be included in the research. Also, government policy in climate change adaptation should have been research further. These limitations in the current research open opportunities for future research in these areas. Overall, this thesis has explored to the wider extent that traditional knowledge alone is widely used by local people on North Pentecost in Vanuatu to adjust to natural environmental changes. And that TK has that capability to be used in isolated to these natural environmental changes.
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Project title: Traditional knowledge and Environmental Change in Vanuatu
Semi-structured interview themes with some sample guiding questions.
Themes: Traditional knowledge indicators
How do you use traditional knowledge to inform your day to day decision-making about your life and interactions with your local environment?
Do you employ specific traditional knowledge indicators to monitor environmental changes?
- Plants – appearances
- Animals & Insects – behaviour
- Atmospheric conditions (winds, clouds, temperature (hot/cold)
- Astronautically- (tides, moon, stars.)
What indicators are the most important to monitor and evaluated the changes in the environment?
What changes, if any, have you noticed in your local environment which does not fit with traditional knowledge?
Do you think some indicators are no longer as accurate as they once were? Why do you think this is?
What specific knowledge is held about extreme weather events?
Themes: Traditional knowledge management strategies
What strategies do you use to prepare for, respond to, or recover from extreme weather events such as?
- Bush fires
- Tropical cyclones
- Lack of freshwater water supplies
How does traditional knowledge inform your management of natural resources such as?
- Agricultural practices
- Water management
- Fisheries practices
- Use of forest resources
What other forms of knowledge do you draw on in your management of natural resources?
Themes: Perceptions/Observed Change
What is your understanding of the concept of climate change?
What do you think are the biggest environmental problems facing your community?
How can traditional knowledge can be used to help your community better address those environmental issues? What other forms of knowledge is required?
How can traditional knowledge be used to address climate variability and environmental changes in the future?
What traditional knowledge-informed strategies could be used to ensure that your community can sustainably manage climate variability, extreme events, and environmental changes both now and longer-term?
Approved by the University of Auckland Human Participants Ethics Committee on …17/11/2017… for three years. Reference Number …020020..
 Kava (Yaqona) is a plant indigenous to the Pacific Rim and the Hawaiian Islands whose root and rhizome are used to prepare a non-fermented beverage with relaxant effects that is used for social and recreational purposes (Cassileth, 2011)
 SPREP-South Pacific Regional Environmental Program: http://www.sprep.org/
 UN – United Nations: http://unctad.org
 Tilatila: Native name for a bush insect that usually makes “ssssshhhhhh” sound indicating immediate rain.
 Mwarivuvu– native name for an insect that lived under the ground surface usually indicates onset of rain by communicating with earthworm.
 Mansiroboe: Native name for sea bird (Wedge-tailed Shearwater)
 Bwagoh: Native name for small reef fish that usually hides in its hole for most of the time, but once they are spotted outside of their hiding places, this indicates a cyclone developing.
 Vele: Native name for Barringtonia edulis. A type of cut fruit tree which is common in PNG, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.
 Raramemea: Native name for Erythrina variegate. Usually it indicates onset of normal dry seasons.
 Gamali: Native name for traditional community hall in NP
 Mara native name of traditional process breadfruit using saltwater to keep it safe and could eaten with a year or two.
 Tabu refers to designated area under restrictions by custom rules.
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