The importance of integrating traditional knowledge into climate science and services was highlighted during a briefing with the Vanuatu Meteorology and Geohazard’s Department’s Climate Division.

It was through traditional knowledge that indigenous Pacific peoples were able to monitor weather patterns, particularly before the introduction of technology. It was how they were and continue to be resilient in the face of a changing climate.

While the Pacific and much of the world began to shift away from the use of traditional knowledge indicators for climate, depending more on science, experts and communities alike are starting to see the value in traditional knowledge, in contributing to more accurate and reliable climate information.

Dr Lynda Chambers of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology says, “Traditional knowledge comes in many forms including turtle nesting locations, plant flowering and bird behaviour.”

According to Dr Chambers, the data that is collected can be used to create climate products such as seasonal calendars, local language climate glossaries, national indicator booklets, and other educational and awareness material.

Photo: SPREP

She also stressed that with traditional knowledge data comes cultural sensitivities and intellectual property, which needs to be respected while collecting, storing, and using traditional knowledge information.

“Traditional Knowledge is an integral part of the VMGD’s climate work and this requires working together with experts and partners outside of VMGD including the Vanuatu Kaljoral Senta, Department of Environment and Conservation to name just a few.”

The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme’s (SPREP) Traditional Knowledge Officer, Siosinamele Lui, says, “Vanuatu is at the forefront and leading the rest of the Pacific Island countries with the collection and monitoring of climate and oceans traditional knowledge indicators.”

“SPREP plays a crucial role in the ongoing coordination across the region. Traditional knowledge plays a vital role in reaching the last mile and building community resilience to extreme events,” Lui added.

Acting Manager of Vanuatu Meteo, Jerry Timothy, acknowledged the support of organisations such as the Bureau of Meteorology, and SPREP, through projects such as the Climate and Oceans Support Programme in the Pacific and the Vanuatu Klaemet Infomesen blong Redy, Adapt, mo Protekt project, in ensuring that traditional knowledge is effectively integrated into the climate science for a more resilient Vanuatu.

“Vanuatu is a big country with many islands scattered across the Pacific Ocean. Each island has its own unique culture and cultural practices, as well as its own unique species of fauna and flora. We need to make sure that the traditional knowledge from all of these islands are taken into account. Only then can we produce accurate climate information that is appropriate for Vanuatu as a whole.”

The Vanuatu Klaement Infomesen blong Redy, Adapt mo Protekt (Van-KIRAP) project is a five-year, USD$ 22 million project which aims to support climate resilient development in Vanuatu through the development, communication, and application of climate information services to benefit agriculture, fisheries, tourism, infrastructure, waste sectors and communities. It is funded by the Green Climate Fund and executed by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme in partnership with the Vanuatu Meteorology and Geo-hazards Department, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Australian Bureau of Meteorology, and APEC Climate Centre.