Advancing the local knowledge on response to water induced hazards in disaster management and climate change adaption policy in Vietnam

Advancing the local knowledge on response to water induced hazards in disaster management and climate change adaption policy in Vietnam

Advancing the local knowledge on response to water induced hazards in disaster management and climate change adaption policy in Vietnam

11:20 - 19/03/2018

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Development Practitioners in the Mekong, Salween and Red river basins (MK31, 32 and 33)

Policy brief

"Advancing the local knowledge on response to water induced hazards in disaster management and climate change adaption policy in Vietnam"

Fellow: Nguyen Thi Hong Lam

Mentor: Assoc. Prof. Dr. Dang Tung Hoa

  1. Introduction

Viet Nam is considered one of the countries most affected by climate change and associated with the phenomena such as rising sea level, natural disasters and so on (The National strategy on climate change, 2011). The extreme weather is turning out to be a more common event. Water induced hazards are likely to pose a major challenge to the livelihoods of people. In vulnerable areas, local knowledge on how to respond to the climate change has played an active role in the lives of rural communities.

As defined commonly by UNESCO[1], the term indigenous knowledge or local knowledge refers to the complete knowledge components that are maintained and developed in a long time with the close interaction between human and natural environment. This is the knowledge that is filtered, transferred in various forms through many generations management practices and exploitation of natural resources with the behavior towards those resources to adapt to natural environment and human society. Local Knowledge has been respected and studied intensively in the world since 1980s (Brosius, 2004). Local knowledge is a knowledge system of local residents or a local community at a specific area. The local knowledge exists and develops in the certain situations with the contribution of all members in the community including the elderly, the youth, men and women at a defined geographical area (Grenier, 1998). There is a multidimensional linkage between gender and local knowledge. Women and men have their own skills and knowledge which are fairly different. Local knowledge defined that men and women play different roles in resources exploitation and usage as well as difficulty settlement. Disasters affect women and men differently. These differences are primarily caused by the existing gender inequalities constrain. Hence, the empowerment of women is a critical ingredient in building disaster resilience (UN, 2015).

Sofar, many studies on local knowledge in the world have been announced. A variety of researches about local knowledge worldwide show the more and more important roles of it in rural development. The local knowledge has been the major concern of policymakers for many decades with the aim to make an effort to find appropriate solutions for sustainable development. This policy brief based on learning and further analysis of integrated local knowledge, gender, climate change adaption and disaster risk reduction. It provides information needed for disaster management and climate change adaption policy in Vietnam.

  1. Policy overview

Vietnamese government has developed a policy framework on disaster management and climate change adaptation. There were many laws, decisions and national programs related to disaster management and climate change adaptation that have been issued and implemented, including: the National Climate Change Strategy (2011) and Action Plan (2012), the National Strategy on Disaster Prevention, Response and Mitigation to 2020 (2007) and Action Plan (2009), Law on Natural Disaster Prevention and Control (2013), and a National Program Community-based Disaster Risk Management (CBDRM) (2009). Some other relevant laws that indirectly apply to disaster management are: Law on Environmental Protection (2014), Law on Water Resources (2012), the Vietnam Green Growth Strategy (2012) and Action plan (2014). In the context of increasingly severe impact of climate change on Viet Nam, these policies focus on activities such as awareness-raising, risk assessment, and development of an early warning system with clearly defined responsibilities for the government in all levels.

To mitigate disasters in the region the government also implemented the policies on stabilization of livelihood of local people. The National Strategy for Natural Disaster Prevention and Response and Mitigation to 2020 are the first policies in which disaster risk reduction is linked to socio-economic development. After that, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development embarked a National Program Community-based Disaster Risk Management CBDRM to build capacity of local authorities. The goal of this program is to support the community in prevention, mitigation and response activities. This program focus on the community involvement through activities such as awareness-raising, risk assessment, and an early warning system development. The local knowledge empowers the local community. In disaster risk reduction involvement of local people is a very important aspect of revitalization for any community. However, the community involvement in policies on disaster management and climate change adaptation is very general, not specifically addressed to vulnerable groups. These policies do not really consider building resilience with livelihood improvement as well as the local knowledge.

  1. Local knowledge is an essential element of local adaptive capacity

Fellow conducted a research to identify the local knowledge amongst farming communities on responding to water induced hazards in one of the most vulnerable areas in Vietnam, the Red River Basin - case study in Xuan Thuy National Park, Nam Dinh Province. This research is developed with a focus on the activities of local male and female farmer in the context of disasters and climate change. Impacts of hazards induced by the water affect women and men differently. To deal with the rising impacts of water induced hazard, local people here apply local knowledge which has many highlighted features consisting of both strength and certain weakness, which is not suitable of current natural environment and society. Therefore, besides the advantages of the system, local people face difficulties in the application.

According to the results of the analysis of the local knowledge of famers community surrounding buffer zone of Xuan Thuy National Park, local residents still lack many essential skills to respond to water induced hazards. The local people only carry out processes based on their experiences, which heavily depend on natural sources, but lack the knowledge on modern and advanced techniques as well as capability to promote the advantages of the living areas. At the survey region, both men and women are engaged in work to seek livelihood diversification for the whole household. However, women are still at disadvantage compared with men through the work tasks. They not only participate in the production processes but also taking care of family this make women lack of time to rest and take care of themselves. This is a common practice in rural areas in Vietnam.

Local knowledge is an essential element of local adaptive capacity. This one is always a considerable resource, which needs to be studied further to release policies combining with indigenous and modern knowledge for the purpose of enabling local people to maximize their strengths. The method, which local people use, must be closely attached to sustainable development. Local knowledge defined that men and women play different roles in building disaster resilience. It is necessary to simultaneously address the interconnected challenges of climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction by improving local knowledge.

  1. Action needed

In the coming period, state government needs to support training local residents in order to change the direction of livelihood development. It is necessary to make policies that prioritize the support of poor households in coping with disaster, support for training the households with the aim to promote the living areas’ strength, to open more agriculture extension classes, and to raise the local knowledge on new and advanced techniques. The local governments need to study the technical measures combined with the available local knowledge to develop an useful knowledge for responding to water induced hazards at local level.

Through the training programs, the local governments have an important opportunity to support rural women. Nowaday it can be seen that the roles of women have been more or less recognized. Women also participate the production activities, create values but not traditional role only in home making and family care. The gender division of labor has been no longer clear and mandatory. Women can be valued in society. However, rural women are often faced with difficulties when it comes to the general accessibility of financial resources, capacity-building activities and technologies. Hence, the local governments need to run a program which women would be educated to promote gender equality and support women's empowerment in order to give them a practical understanding of innovation and skills to respond to disasters realities.

When policy-planners access the local people, they should respect the local knowledge and adopt the policies to apply research findings on the local knowledge system in rural projects. Specific policies also need to be made to support people in economic development in vulnerable areas. To raise efficiency in dealing with natural calamities for local people, it is necessary to add local knowledge to service system and transfer techniques for people to localities to make sure that all households have access to and apply it for production.

Further, it is necessary to advance improving local knowledge as a response to water induced hazards in disaster management and climate change adaption policies in Vietnam. Policies for prioritizing investment, encouraging local residents to participate in the natural resource management and conservation, and strengthening their capacity to respond to the climate change are the key to sustainable management and development.

  1. Policy recommendations

To translate the government in high-level policies and strategies on disaster management and climate change adaptation into impact on the communities, the following recommendations are proposed for Vietnamese policy makers:

- Increase local knowledge and gender mainstreaming in disaster management and climate change adaptation policies and programs.

- Develop training program for local people on emergency response to climate change.

- Involve women at many levels as active participants in the climate change and disaster risk reduction planning process.

- Institutionalize training on local knowledge for government personnel including planners and emergency responders tasked with implementing climate change and disaster risk reduction action plans.

- Build up a network of government experts working in local communities to help local people to improve local techniques or to combine with other technical from outside.

- Incorporate integrated local knowledge – climate change – disaster risk reduction initiatives that build on NGO good practice

- Expand the current mandate of the associate organization as Women‘s union, Farmer‘s Union within all committees responsible for climate change and disaster risk reduction planning.

- Coordinate with international agencies and NGOs to help local people on response to natural hazards; advocate and act at the regional and international level.

  1. References
  2. Brosius, J. P. (2004), what counts as local knowledge in global environmental assessments and conventions? Presented at the conference “Bridging Scales and Epistemologies”, Alexandrina, Egypt, March.


  1. Grenier, L. (1998), "Working with Indigenous Knowledge", International Development Research Centre, Canada
  2. Prime Minister (2011), Decision 2139/QĐ-TTg, The National strategy on climate change. Hanoi, 05 December, 2011.
  3. Prime Minister (2009), Decision 1002/QD-TTg, Approving the Plan for Community awareness raising and Community-based Disaster Risk Management Hanoi, 13 July, 2009.
  4. UN (2015), Gender Responsive Disaster Risk Reduction, a contribution by the United Nations to the consultation leading to the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, Sendai, Japan.

6.UNESCO, what is local knowledge? Available at



[1] UNESCO Official Site