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The IUP Journal of Knowledge Management :
Indigenous Knowledge Practices
for Climate Change Adaptation
in the Southern Coast of Bangladesh
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Climate change is an extremely crucial issue for Bangladesh and according to the Global Climate Risk Index, the country ranks first as the nation most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change in the coming decades. Coping with climatic events like drought, cyclones and flooding is not new to Bangladesh. However, in recent times, focus has been shifted on community-based adaptation practices in understanding and addressing modern drivers, such as climate change and their impacts on local populations and their own adaptation practice. This paper attempts to use data collected from two coastal upazilas (sub-districts) in the southern coast of Bangladesh to look into the types of livelihoods, which provide us with a wider picture on what households do—and what they could do—to adapt to climate change in the coastal zone using their own knowledge generated through inter-generational community interaction. This case tries to open up the black box of ‘vulnerability’ and map out differential adaptation strategies according to varying levels of resource access, livelihood strategies, and perception of risk. The aim is to incorporate self-assessments of community people with scientific descriptions of exposure to hazards and available resources to cope. The idea behind this new approach is to match experts’ assessments of adaptive capacity with a self-evaluation of the target populations on what can actually be done to adapt to ongoing processes (in addition to the continuing effort to improve livelihoods). This papers argues that community knowledge continuously enriches the household adaptive capacity in a constantly changing climatic situation.

 
 
 

Indigenous communities have long been recognized as being particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change due to the close connection between their livelihoods, culture, spirituality and social systems and their environment. At the same time, however, this deep and long-established relationship with the natural environment affords many indigenous peoples with knowledge that they have long used to adapt to environmental change, and are now using to respond to the impacts of climate change (Barua et al., 2010).

While global climatic models and scientific predictions are largely used by academics and professionals to plan adaptation strategies at national level, such large-scale generic plans and policies often do not incorporate the specific local contexts in which affected rural populations live. Although rural people may not be able to understand the complexity of global climatic systems, they have huge knowledge about the local conditions by observing the natural changes occurring around them over the years (Raihan et al., 2010). The term ‘climate change’ might not be familiar to them, but they can decipher the changes in rainfall patterns, temperatures and sea level based on their experience in dealing with nature. Often such knowledge can serve as historical or baseline data for scientific analysis and provide evidence to reduce some of the uncertainties associated with forecasts based on climatic models (Barua and Rahman, 2016).

 
 
 

Indigenous Knowledge Practices, Climate Change Adaptation, Southern Coast of Bangladesh