The role of indigenous knowledge in disaster risk reduction: a critical analysis
Maferetlhane, Oageng Ivan
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Although the importance of Indigenous Knowledge systems has been recognised by international organisations, such as the United Nations and World Bank, the role of Indigenous Knowledge in Disaster Risk Reduction has to date not received the attention it deserves in South Africa. Little is known about how South Africa‘s indigenous communities use Indigenous Knowledge to avoid, prevent and deal with disasters. This study has sought to investigate the role of Indigenous Knowledge in Disaster Risk Reduction in Taung, South Africa. The research reported in this dissertation has focused on identifying the principles, procedures and best practices in the role of Indigenous Knowledge in Disaster Risk Reduction of the two indigenous communities of Qho and Mokasa 2 in Taung; and how this knowledge was acquired, interpreted and used. The overall objective of the research was to investigate the role of Indigenous Knowledge in Disaster Risk Reduction. The study sought to document information related to Indigenous Knowledge, so that its importance in Disaster Risk Reduction could be realised. This research was conducted within a qualitative paradigm. Data were collected by means of semi-structured interviews. The participants in the study were representatives of the community and included elders, traditional leaders and healers. In addition, semi-structured interviews were conducted with representatives of institutions involved in the fields of disaster and traditional leadership. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with twenty respondents and three key informants/officials. The collected data were thematically analysed. The findings in this study revealed that, generally, the people of Taung have rich Indigenous Knowledge in many areas of life. Taung local communities have a variety of Indigenous Knowledge and practices that are used in Disaster Risk Reduction initiatives, such as disaster prevention and preparation, food security, agriculture, water conservation, medicinal products, land use planning, as well as environmental strategies. These practices are used as survival strategies in times of disaster – and also to prevent the onset of disaster. In addition, the findings from representatives of institutions also indicated that they are of the view that Indigenous Knowledge has a role to play in Disaster Risk Reduction. The findings also revealed that Indigenous Knowledge is mainly possessed by older people in the community and this has implications for it possibly becoming extinct when they pass on. Although people possess Indigenous Knowledge and use it every day, they are not aware that it is Indigenous Knowledge, and that they are using it for the purposes of Disaster Risk Reduction. Despite the fact that people are not aware of Disaster Risk Reduction, the findings have established that Indigenous Knowledge plays a major role in Disaster Risk Reduction. The examples provided in this study can be used to demonstrate the benefits of Indigenous Knowledge in Disaster Risk Reduction to communities. It has been shown that, in answer to the guiding question posed for this study, Indigenous Knowledge has an important role to play in Disaster Risk Reduction. The research concluded that Indigenous Knowledge could add value, since it plays a crucial role in Disaster Risk Reduction. The study recommended that various strategies should be developed and implemented to improve the role of indigenous knowledge in Disaster Risk Reduction and more research should be conducted to collect Indigenous Knowledge, as it relates to Disaster Risk Reduction – for all those communities that depend on this very important resource.