Traditional disaster reduction in Pacific Island communities

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Campbell, J.R. 2006 Traditional disaster reduction in Pacific Island communities. Lower Hutt, N.Z.: GNS Science. GNS Science report 2006/38 41 p.

Abstract: Pacific Island communities had a wide range of traditional measures that enabled them to ameliorate the effects of natural disasters. This study identifies four clusters of coping measures. Most important among these was food security made possible particularly through the production of surpluses. Not only were there many systems of food preservation and storage, but communities also maintained a diversity of food plants in addition to using wild or feral species. Fragmentation of garden land also enabled a diversity of food production sites reducing the likelihood of complete loss of food production following events such as tropical cyclones. A second important element in traditional disaster reduction was inter-community and intra-community cooperation. Cooperation was encouraged by building ties through feasting, ceremony and exchange of goods. This was also underpinned by the production of surpluses but enabled a wide range of co-operative strategies to be called upon in times of hardship. The third category of traditional disaster response included features of buildings in some parts of the Pacific region where hipped roofs, sennit bindings, deeply embedded hardwood posts and well sealed walls and roofs helped reduce damage from tropical cyclone force winds. Finally, traditional knowledge systems underlay all of the features above and also included strategies for predicting adverse weather events. Together these elements of disaster reduction enabled communities to be sustained for millennia in Pacific Island environments. (auth)