Value of traditional oral narratives in building climate-change resilience: insights from rural communities in Fiji

Type

Journal Article

Author(s)

Janif, S.
Nunn, P.
Geraghty, P.
Aalbersberg, W.
Thomas, F.
Camailakeba, M.

Title

Value of traditional oral narratives in building climate-change resilience: insights from rural communities in Fiji

Year

2016

Journal

Ecology and Society

Vol (No), pp

21(2)

Abstract

In the interests of improving engagement with Pacific Island communities to enable development of effective and sustainable adaptation strategies to climate change, we looked at how traditional oral narratives in rural/peripheral Fiji communities might be used to inform such strategies. Interviews were undertaken and observations made in 27 communities; because the custodians of traditional knowledge were targeted, most interviewees were 70-79 years old. The view that oral traditions, particularly those referring to environmental history and the observations/precursors of environmental change, were endangered was widespread and regretted. Interviewees’ personal experiences of extreme events (natural disasters) were commonplace but no narratives of historical (unwitnessed by interviewees) events were found. In contrast, experiences of previous village relocations attributable (mainly) to environmental change were recorded in five communities while awareness of environmentally driven migration was more common. Questions about climate change elicited views dominated by religious/fatalist beliefs but included some more pragmatic ones; the confusion of climate change with climate variability, which is part of traditional knowledge, was widespread. The erosion of traditional environmental knowledge in the survey communities over recent decades has been severe and is likely to continue apace, which will reduce community self-sufficiency and resilience. Ways of conserving such knowledge and incorporating it into adaptation planning for Pacific Island communities in rural/peripheral locations should be explored.

Citation

Janif, S., et al. (2016). “Value of traditional oral narratives in building climate-change resilience: insights from rural communities in Fiji.” Ecology and Society 21(2). URL : http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol21/iss2/art7/

Tags:
,