The Integration of Indigenous Knowledge for Disaster Risk Reduction Practices through Scientific Knowledge: Cases from Mentawai Islands, Indonesia

Zulfadrim Zulfadrim, Yusuke Toyoda, Hidehiko Kanegae


This study explores the importance of indigenous knowledge for everyday practices of disaster risk reduction and response. Many existing studies have highlighted the need to integrate such knowledge with modern science. Based on ethnographic research in indigenous communities in the Mentawai Islands of Indonesia, this study explores the categorization of indigenous knowledge in the integration process. To that end, primary data were collected through in-depth interviews while secondary data were collected from relevant documents, including books, articles, websites and government and NGO reports. The findings indicate that indigenous knowledge is acquired through long observation and interaction with disasters. Although some of this knowledge is based on successes in other localities, some indigenous knowledge is completely local, homogenous and shared among community members. It was also established that indigenous knowledge can be meaningfully organized into a number of categories, and that indigenous knowledge of a technical nature is more likely to be integrated with scientific knowledge. The research was exploratory and approached indigenous knowledge issues from the point of view of indigenous communities themselves. This approach should be replicated and expanded in other indigenous communities.


indigenous peoples; knowledge; natural disaster; cultural behavioral; local wisdom; tacit knowledge

Full Text:



Agrawal. (1995). Dismantling the divide between indigenous and western knowledge. Development and Change, 26(3), 413–439.

Badan Perencanan Pembangunan Daerah Kabupaten Mentawai, (2004). Profil Kepulauan Mentawai. Tuapeijat.

Bastide, M. (2008). Referenced from a thesis focused on ‘cultural change and authenticity’. Unpublished thesis.

Dekens, J. (2007). Local knowledge for disaster preparedness: a literature review. International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) (pp. 1–14).

Ellis, D. & West, P. (2000). Local history as “indigenous knowledge”: Applications for conservation and development in Papua New Guinea. ASA 2000 Conference on Indigenous Knowledge and Development.

Elwert, G., & Sehoueto, L. (1999). Local Knowledge and the improvement of food production: a case study in benin. In U. Kracht & M. Schultz (Eds.), Food Security and Nutrition: The Global Challenge (pp. 237–251). New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Flavier, J. M., Jesus, A., & Navarro, C. S. (1995). The regional program for the promotion of indigenous knowledge in Asia. In D. M. Warren, L. J. Slikkerveer, & D. Brokensha (Eds.), The cultural dimension of development: Indigenous knowledge systems (pp. 479–487). London: Intermediate Technology Publications.

Gopalakrishnan, C., & Okada, N. (2007, December). Designing new institutions for implementing integrated disaster risk management: Key elements and future directions. Disasters.

Grenier, L. (1998). Working with indigenous knowledge: a guide for researchers. (p. 80). Ottawa: Idrc.

Guitierrez, J. (2004). Note on seismic adequacy for vernacular building. 13th World Conference on Earthquake Engineering, Vancouver, Canada, August 1-6, Paper No 5011.

Henri, R. (2012). Community Research Report: Indigenous Mentawai, Suku Mentawai.

Hernawati, S. & Tarida, (2007) Uma Fenomena keterkaitan Manusia dengan Alam. Padang: YCM.

International Institute of Rural Reconstruction (IIRR). (1996). Recording and using indigenous knowledge: a manual. Silang: IIRR.

Kusumari, B., & Alam, Q. (2012). Local wisdom-based disaster recovery model in Indonesia Bevaola Kusumasari, Quamrul Alam. Disaster Prevention and Management: An International Journal, 21(3), 351–369.

McAdoo, B. G., Moore, A., & Baumwoll, J. (2009). Indigenous knowledge and the near field population response during the 2007 Solomon Islands tsunami. Natural Hazards, 48(1), 73–82.

Mercer, J. (2015). Knowledge and Disaster Risk Reduction. In Handbook of Hazards and Disaster Risk Reduction. Routledge.

Mercer, J., Kelman, I., Taranis, L., & Suchet-Pearson, S. (2010). Framework for integrating indigenous and scientific knowledge for disaster risk reduction. Disasters, 34(1), 214–39.

Persoon, G. (1987). Local leaders on Siberut: A creation not yet completed. In P. Quarles van Ufford (ed.), Local leadership and programme implementation in Indonesia. Amsterdam: Free University Press.

Robbins, P., & Berkes, F. (2006). Sacred Ecology: Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Resource Management. Economic Geography, 76(4), 395.

Schefold, R. (1991). Mainan bagi roh: kebudayaan Mentawai. Jakarta: Balai Pustaka.

Schroder, P. 1995. Lokales Wissen als konstruktives und kritisches Potential fur die Entwicklungszsammenarbeit. In S. Hornela & P. Schroder (eds.), Lokales Wissen und Entwicklung. Zur Relevanz kulturspezifischen wissens fur Entwicklungsporezesse. Saarruken: Verlag fur Entwicklungspolitik, pp.1-15.

Shaw, R., Sharma, A., & 竹内裕希子. (2009). Indigenous knowledge and disaster risk reduction: from practice to policy / Rajib Shaw, Anshu Sharma and Yukiko Takeuchi, editors. Nova Science Publishers.

Thrupp, L.A. (1989). Legitimizing local knowledge: From displacement to empowerment for Third World people. Agriculture and Human Values, 6 (3), 13-24.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2019 Zulfadrim Zulfadrim

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.



  ISSN: 2527-4341


 Indexed in: