Knowledge recovery in Nicaragua
PUERTO CABEZAS, NICARAGUA, 9 October 2015 - An important effort is being made in a disaster prone area of Nicaragua to create understanding and awareness of how indigenous people cope with natural hazards by tapping into their ancestral store of knowledge and keeping it alive.
The municipality of Puerto Cabezas, located on the North Caribbean Coast has 51,993 inhabitants of diverse ethnic groups. In the past 15 years, the municipality has faced seven major hurricanes causing significant economic losses and damage to essential infrastructure.
According to a submission received for the 2015 International Day search for examples of community use of local knowledge for improved disaster risk management, a “socio-cultural diagnosis of strategies for risk prevention, mitigation and management practiced traditionally among indigenous peoples” has been carried as part of a project called “Building paths…for a safe childhood”, implemented in 2014 and 2015 by the Directorate of Adolescents and Youths (DAJ) of the Municipal Mayor’s Office of Puerto Cabezas in the North Atlantic Autonomous Region (RAAN) with technical and financial support from UNICEF.
To carry out this diagnosis, work was done in three suburban and two rural communities selected on the basis of their risk or vulnerability indicators.
Achievements of the exercise included the identification of 24 types of natural signs (flora and fauna) entrenched in the collective memory of the community in order to identify and interpret environmental changes.
The submission also states that “recognition of ancestral communication mechanisms practiced among the indigenous peoples, allowed a warning system for early preparedness in the event of natural phenomena.”
The research also resulted in the “compilation of local practices that define the communities’ capacities for self-governing of risk management. Those practices are varied depending on the location of the communities, the intensity of the natural phenomena, and new knowledge and technological resources in-hand.”
Another outcome is “the importance of ancestral community organization” as a key element for preparedness, mitigation, warning and response actions.
Key challenges identified include the need for more in-depth analysis to identify ancestral practices, which could be retrieved and integrated within community disaster risk management plans. There was also a need to encourage the active participation and capacity development of children and adolescents from these communities in disaster risk management.
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