15:25 - 16/03/2018

Community based water quality monitoring: a multi-benefit approach to water governance in the Red river basin, Vietnam
Small-scale irrigation – effective solution for sloping land areas
Assessment of climate change impacts on river flow regimes to support decision-making in water resources management in The Red River Delta, Vietnam – A case study of Nhue-Day River Basin
Impact of existing water fee policy in the Red River Basin, Vietnam

This research applied PRA (Participatory Rural Appraisal) method to collect information from local people. Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) is a method applied for an inter-branch group working with people to provide rapidly and systematically rural development issues (Cavestro, 2003). PRA is conducted through some discussions with local and hamlet’s officials of research areas. Some tools as map of hamlet, seasonal schedules



Fellow: Nguyen Thi Hong Lam

Mentor: Assoc. Prof. Dr. Dang Tung Hoa

  1. Abstract

Local knowledge is an essential element of local adaptive capacity. The purpose of this paper  is to examine the existing local knowledge which has been applied by the local people to respond to water-induced hazards in Xuan Thuy national park, Nam Dinh province. The research applied ecological framework to analysis relation between biological, social and physical aspects of the local farmer in context of their environment. Until now, water induced hazards have made deep impacts and comprehensively changing the life of local farmers in Xuan Thuy National Park. The local people have responded to water induced hazards based on their experience such as watching disaster forecast, planting mangrove forest to prevent soil erosion, adapting houses, settlements to cope with storm, flood and adaptations in livelihoods. The male and female farmers play different roles in their activities. This research found out people’s efforts to respond, cope, and adapt to the current rapid changes on water induce hazards to make recommendations for the effective application of local knowledge to mitigate the negative impacts of the hazards in Xuan Thuy National Park.

Key words: Local knowledge, water induced hazards, Xuan Thuy national park.

  1. Introduction

Viet Nam is considered as one of the countries most affected by climate change and associated to phenomena such as rising sea level, natural disasters and so on (The National strategy on climate change, 2011). Water induced hazards, especially storms, floods and droughts would bring increased disaster risk in low lying coastal areas. Climate change seriously threatens food security and agricultural development but the communities’ awareness is still highly limited. These challenges urge Viet Nam to take greater efforts to respond to climate change while promoting economic development.

In vulnerable areas, local knowledge on responding to climate change has played an active role in the lives of rural communities. There is a multidimensional linkage between gender and local knowledge. 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 (United Nation, 2015). Besides, the method which local people use must be closely attached to sustainable development. Local farmers should be assisted in their coping strategies.

In the world, local knowlegde has been concerned for several decades by scientists and management officials when projects make an effort to find solutions for water management. However, local knowledge is still a new topic that has not been paid attention much enough. Being aware of the matter, fellow conducted a research with aim 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.

  1. Literature Review

Local Knowledge has been respected and studied intensively since 1980s (Brosius, 2004).  According to Warren, this term was firstly used by Robert Chambers  in a journal issued in 1979, then it was used by Brokensha and Warren in 1980 and  it has been used up to now. The concept of local knowledge or traditional knowledge has so far been defined in variety of ways depending on different fields, specialties or purposes of use. Although variety of names is used, the object in local knowledge research is always a endemic knowledge system of local people relating to the relationship between local people with the surrounding natural environment (Lê Thị Diên, 2002).

As defined commonly by UNESCO[1], the term indigenous knowledge or local knowledge refers to the complete knowledge components which are maintained, developed in a long time with the close interaction between human and natural environment. The local knowledge is a part of the harmonized cultural system, a collection of knowledge including language system, naming and classification, resource usage practices, production activities, rituals, spiritual values and world view.

The indigenous 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). Thus, the most basic features of local knowledge is endemic, it is the knowledge systems of local peoples or community in a particular area, to survive and thrive in these situations in certain geographical areas (Warren, 1992). Determining time and space, the Indigenous knowledge is the knowledge systems existing and developing in certain circumstances in the defined geographical regions with the contribution of the members of the community (Grenier, 1998).

The development of indigenous knowledge systems has become a vital issue for the people creating these systems. Such knowledge system has been cumulated, reflected through the experience, tested and completed over time by local people (Warren, 1992). Local knowledge is not limited to tribal groups or native people in a certain area or rural residents. Each community from urban to rural areas has the local knowledge (Charyulu, 1998).

In fact, there is a variety of terms used to describe these sets of understandings, interpretations and meanings are part of a cultural complex that encompasses language, naming and classification systems, practices for using resources, ritual, spirituality and worldview; such as “local knowledge”, “traditional knowledge”, “traditional environmental knowledge”, “rural people’s knowledge”,  “indigenous traditional knowledge,” “indigenous technical knowledge”, “traditional ecological knowledge”, ect. (Sillitoe, 1998). Despite having different names, the concepts share common features as follows:  Indigenous knowledge is the knowledge relevant to a certain location, culture or society; Nature of behaviour; Being belongs to a group of people living in a system that is closely linked to nature; Unlike the formal scientific knowledge (Johnon, M., 1992). In this research, researcher considered these terms to have the same meaning and used the united term “local and indigenous knowledge”. So far, many studies on indigenous knowledge in the world have been announced. A variety of researches about local knowlegde worldwide shows the more and more important roles of it in rural development.

  1. Methodology and methods

Ecology is the study of the relationship between living things and their total environment. Based on this general definition, then human ecology refers to an interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary study of the relationships and interations among humans, their biology, their cultures, and their physical environments (Sutton and Anderson, 2010). This research applied Human Ecology Framework (HEF) to to analyze the interaction between human and biosphere, between human society and natural environment. HEF serves to consider the interaction among all components of ecosystem and society in a unified body, and then find ways to response with the increasing environmental issues and changes of natural and social systems. HEF also brings about the unify between natural scientists and social scientists (Le Thi Dien, 2002).

In Teherani – Kroenner’s opinion (1992), human ecology model was designed based on human activities with adaptation to the natural and social environment. The  model below was Dang Tung Hoa (2001) applied in the study of the relationship between people and the forest resources under respect of gender.

Figure 1.  Model of human ecology

(Source: Dang Tung Hoa, 2001, based on Teherani-Kroenner 1992)

The above figure showed that people are born with physical demand and spiritual one, when they live in both natural environment and social-institutional environment. This framework can be described as a system, in which a change in one factor due to external impact makes the other factors’ change, gender issue is integrated in this model (Dang Tung Hoa, 2001).

This research applied PRA (Participatory Rural Appraisal) method to collect information from local people. Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) is a method applied for an inter-branch group working with people to provide rapidly and systematically rural development issues (Cavestro, 2003). PRA is conducted through some discussions with local and hamlet’s officials of research areas. Some tools as map of hamlet, seasonal schedules, SWOT, and so on are used to understand the ways to deal with disasters according to the opinion of local relevant sides. However, due to the limitation of time and resources, the researchers only make use of these following tools: Mapping, Semi-structured interview and household case study.  A focus group discussion is used with farmers to collect local knowledge used over generations and information relate to roles of male and female in livelihood. 03 group discussions including male group, female group, local government group were led and 16 households are interviewed. Results from a group discussion of farmers are the ranking in effectiveness which each local knowledge on response to water induced hazards.

  1. Findings and Discussion

5.1. The water induced hazard situation in the research area

Xuan Thuy National Park is located in Giao Thuy district, Nam Dinh province. Xuan Thuy National Park placed in Red River estuary named Ba Lat where all streams run into the sea, which belongs to coastal area in the Red River Basin.

Figure 3. Xuan Thuy National Park Subregion Map

Source: MCD, 2007

The Core Zone of Xuan Thuy National Park consists of: Interior islet of Con Ngan and the whole islets of Con Lu and Con Xanh. The total area of the Park is 15,100 ha (with 7,100 ha of Buffer Zone and 8,000 ha of Core Zone), in which 12,000 ha belongs to Ramsar Site. The Core Zone covers an area of 3,000 ha of dryland when tide falls and 4,000 ha of wetland. The entire Buffer Zone and Core Zone of Xuan Thuy National Park are located on the area of Giao Thien, Giao An, Giao Lac, Giao Xuan and Giao Hai Commune.

Xuan Thuy National Park lies in the tropical monsoon region; the natural terrain is formed owing to the sedimentation regime in the river estuary. The large alluvial grounds and rivers interspersed created specific scenery to the Park. Water induced hazards through phenomena such as: Rising sea level; Storm, flood and heavy rain; Erosion and Salinity intrusion are causing deep impacts and comprehensively changing the life on this area.

Rising sea level

Monitoring data at gauging station along with Vietnamese coastal road showed that currently, rising rate of sea level on average in Vietnam is about 3mm per year (period of 1993-2008), which is equal to the world’s average rate. Over 50 years, sea level at Hon Dau gauging station has risen about 20cm (MONRE, 2008). Xuan Thuy National Park lies in wetland ecosystem, one of the most vulnerable areas when sea level rises. Boundary outside the area will be eroded and the new wetland area will be deeply formed from inside because dry land are flooded due to rising sea level. However, in fact, the new wetland area is much smaller than lost wetland. These tidal wetland areas can be found between sea level and the highest tide in monthly moon circles. Therefore, areas with short-term tidal circle are the most vulnerable.

Storm, flood and heavy rain

According to data from weather station of Nam Dinh province in particular and other weather stations in neighborhood in general, annual precipitation tends to decrease from 2000 until now[2]. Several recent years, average rainfall here is about 1.650mm. There are about approximately 150 days of rain each year. Rainfall is distributed very unevenly over time of the year. There are two obvious seasons in year: dry and rainy seasons. Residential community at five communes including Giao Thien, Giao An, Giao Lac, Giao Xuan and Giao Hai is more vulnerable when flood season comes. The higher sea level is, the wider the influence of storm and flood to mainland is. According to data from meteorological station, the number of tropical cyclones impacting on Vietnam has increased significantly since 1950s. When the storms appear, sea level rises about 5-6 meters and strong waves can break down sea dykes and strictly deform coastline. Flood devastates rice fields, shrimp lagoons, effecting on cultivation, livestock and aquaculture. In addition, floods also destroy infrastructure, roads, shrimp lagoons, buildings and so on which causes bad effects on tourism and other service industries. However, the biggest impact of floods is that they could take human lives and cause infectious diseases affecting human health.


In Xuan Thuy National Park, erosion occurs both in riverbank and coastlines. Research on Application of GIS Technology aiming at estimating the variation of resource at Xuan Thuy National Park region in 1989-2007 by Department of Natural Resource and Environment of Nam Dinh province in 2010 showed large changes of land. From 1989 to 2007, Xuan Thuy National Park region has faced huge fluctuation (Nam Dinh DONRE, 2010). Both erosion and consolidation processes taking place simultaneously and strongly make boundary be changed consecutively. Coastline erosion occurs mainly on the East of sand ridges with 20 km of length. These eroded areas only appear at the beginning and the end of Con Lu. Commonly, erosion rate is different between ridges. Con Lu’s erosion and consolidation rate is stronger than Con Ngan’s and Con Mo’s ones while interior islet protected by Con Lu is only consolidated due to not being affected by the waves. In general, Interior Islet is relatively stable area, and is consolidated more towards the West (Giao Hai region). From 1989 to 2007, Xuan Thuy National Park region is always consolidated. Consolidation rate in period of 2003-2007 is 1.36 times faster than period of 1989-2003. One of the main effects is that people are aware of important roles of mangrove forest as well as protection and reasonable exploitation policies and recover cut-down forests to create favorite conditions for sedimentation and decreasing impact of wave power on coastline. The strong consolidation areas such as the end of Con Lu, Interior Islet are exploited and used to cultivate brackish water aquaculture. Estuarial areas are more convex than basic coastline, so flows of Vop River and Tra River are narrowed gradually. Therefore, main wave directions always concentrate high power which has a capacity of strong destruction. However, presentation of mangrove forests at two banks of the river contributes to control effects of wave (reducing erosion while accelerating consolidation).

Salinity intrusion

One of the most important factors affecting the development and distribution of mangrove forests is salinity. Rising sea level and the change of river streams affect the distribution of salinity and the amount of clean water at Xuan Thuy National Park, which influences the growth process of mangrove forests (Nguyen Van Vu, 2014). Mangrove ecosystems will react, which is manifested in many ways, such as changing productivity, expanding the area or biodiversity, or moving to another place. These modifications could change the number of fishes, shrimps, crabs and other species living in mangrove forest area. Mangrove ecosystem is the habitat of many creatures; therefore, each lost area will negatively affect life cycle and living space of those.  Furthermore, shortage of rain and reduction of precipitation in recent years also lead to the increase of salinity seasonally. Normally, in April, water from upper reaches helps reduce salinity and allows species to grow, especially molluscous. However, recently, that rain drops and precipitation reduces has made salt level raise, leading to the fact that species of molluscous grow and develop slowly. Beside the impact on ecosystems, salinity also affects the life of local people who have to bear some disadvatages such as having to travel a long distance to access clean water, lacking of clean water for cultivation and standing for huge loss in aquaculture caused by the fact that many species cannot survive in saltwater environment.

5.2. Local knowledge on response  to water induced hazard

In the process of interview, data collection and discussion with presentation of communities (PRA), many comments of communities and related sides about impacts of water induced hazards on the local are totally acknowledged. It can be seen that impacts of water induced hazards together with the current pressure caused by social and economic development have been making local communities suffer huge losses. Impacts of water induced hazard, both direct and indirect, have been increasingly affecting the lives of local people. Extreme weather events have been progressively occurring with higher level and frequency compared to the past. The local communities are vulnerable subjects not only because they live at the boundary between the mainland and the sea, but also due to the livelihoods crucially depending on the nature. 

Disaster forecast 

In the past, due to shortage of media such as radio, television, the internet, radio communication and telephones, local people at Buffer Zone communes of Xuan Thuy Nation Park only used experiences through word of mouth to deal with coming storms. For example, “rang” is phenomena of coloured western cloud on the sky-line. Golden cloud on the sky-line means shining, white cloud means wind and red cloud means rain. Or if wasps nest on ground or on the tree, floods will appear. Flooding water will go down if wind change into northwest direction and on the sea, thunder appears. Nowadays, the weather unfolds unusually, making weather prediction by experiences become difficult. However, people are aware of updating happenings and weather forecast via some means as televisions, radios, loudspeakers, and so on to carry out responding methods.

Planting mangrove forest to prevent soil erosion

Many years ago, at Buffer Zone communes of Xuan Thuy Nation Park, people planted mangrove forest to prevent soil erosion. Survey results showed that 100% of interviewed local people are aware of importance of mangrove forest to wetland ecosystem. Mangrove forest is a shield to protect people from storms and prevent coastal erosion. Recovered forests are effective method to deal with storms. At some mangrove forest areas, local people have planted forests to prevent storms and waves often appearing here. They grow kandelia obovata, a typical species of mangrove forest. Besides, they also plant aegiceras corniculatum, bruguiera gymnorrhiza in lagoon area to hold back waves because waves created from wind in storms affect seafood in the lagoons. At high alluvial flats, casuarina trees grow fast; however, ten last years, they were submerged due to rising tide (about one hectare of casuarina forest at Con Lu were dead because casuarina trees only live at high land). Especially, 0.5 hectare of mangrove forest was buried in the sea water and died (Mangrove trees only can withstand flooding in a certain time, not a long time).   

Adapting houses, settlements to cope with storm, flood

Before floods, local people fasten outside and in side houses by using bamboo, wood and long planks to prop at the top of pillar, the connection point of rafter and pillar, fixing pillar to avoid moving. If there are many pillars in a house, associate them together by bamboo or woods and fasten. When the roofs covered with steel sheet, you should put sandbags on it at important places as the position of purlin, edges of metal roof. The more sandbags you have, the better you are. These sandbags connect together by a bamboo bar or a string. All wooden doors, sliding doors should be fastened by iron wires or nails through a bamboo or wood bar, especially when the door pushes in, covers vent and you should stick X inside to avoid breaking. Check all positions to find out suitable responding methods. All large trees, branches of trees must be cut or trimmed in order to avoid hurt people in strong storms. Disconnect the electrical systems and electronic means by cutting main knife-switch, lowering antenna column, cutting down trees spreading to bare wire.

During floods: When shelters become dangerous, people should move to safer places. If people decide to stay, choose the safest places to dodge such as position without fallen tiles, purlins,… People shouldn’t avoid under the table, or empty wooden beds. Some families dig tunnels which are located at high places, away from ancient trees, walls to avoid dangers due to tides or heavy objects.  The area of tunnels depends on the number of people. Sandbags are used to cover around tunnels. Depth of tunnels is moderate to make sure safety for people. Tunnels are equipped with roof, sand-resistant walls, and exit doors. Only go out when the storms absolutely disappear. In situation of rising water, shelter is filled by water, people should have backup methods to move higher land and go early before the floods become more dangerous. Bags of foods and private items should be put at high places. Fix livestock by creating raft, impounding chicken into cage. 

Adaptations in livelihood

While facing dramatic impacts of water induced hazard, local communities with their own knowledge and long-standing cultivation tradition brought forwards many ways to cope with disaster for their own livelihoods. Many local people in the Buffer Zone communes of Xuan Thuy National Park decided to choose livelihoods depending on the tide. More or less, every profession is affected by disasters caused by the water. According to local people, in order to do seafood exploitation profession, they have to adapt with the water whose level is gradually higher and higher. Heck, using bait need to be heightened compatibly; people need to consider the sea level while travelling to catch seafood because it is higher and more dangerous. People doing aquaculture profession threatened by the tide also need to change their means. For example, they should invest money to heighten lagoon banks, sentry boxes, be ready to cope with severe disaster and weather happening more regularly. Due to the higher temperature and other adverse factors, local aquaculture would also suffer significant consequences, such as: epidemic diseases arising more often, tidal ground initially divided into fields to raise seafood is no longer suitable for traditional seafood raising methods due to rising sea level caused by the tide, leading to declined farming yields and low production and business efficiency.

The locals there from generation to generation have been cultivating in two seasons: spring season (from February to June) and summer-autumn season (from July to October). Nowadays, farmers have to deal with some phenomena such as salinized or waterlogged soils. However, according to the interview, local people have not found an appropriate way to adapt to the climate change yet. Normally, once extreme cold weather appears, the only thing farmers there can do is covering the rice by plastic film. Beside this way, they do not have any other ways to protect themselves and their families as well as adapt to the climate change.

However, those solutions are only implemented to minimize the impacts of natural disasters on local major trades such as rice cultivation, aquaculture and seafood exploitation. At the present, livelihoods of the most people there strongly depend on the nature, resulting the decline in productivity whenever disasters occur. It is important for people doing aquaculture  to take measures to adapt to the frequent changes of the environment.

5.3.  Relationship between local knowledge and gender

There is a multidimensional linkage between gender and local knowledge. Women and men have their own skills and knowledge which are fairly different. The difference is essential to recognize how the gender distinction affects the structure of social system. Local knowledge defined that men and women play different roles in resources exploitation and usage as well as difficulty settlement.

At the surveyed region, men mainly focus on the work that requires strength. Women, due to the characteristics of being hardworking and weaker than men, normally are in charge of the work requiring perseverance. The research results showed that men are primarily responsible for the aquaculture. Especially, the stages considered critical in aquaculture processes are performed by men. Gender relations reflex in the frequency/ level of participation and decision-making between men and women relating aquaculture activities, which also reflex the dominance of men/ supremacy of men over women, in particular decisions in production techniques. Meanwhile, women play a major role in farming, doing housework and taking care of children.

Both men and women are engaged in work to seek livelihood diversification for the whole household. Women also participate the production activities, create values but not traditional role only in home making and family care. However, women are still at disadvantage compared with men through the work tasks. They participate not only 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.

5.4. Analyzing strength, weakness, opportunities and threads of application local knowledge for dealing with water induced hazard  

To deal with the rising impacts of water induced hazard, local people at Buffer Zone communes of Xuan Thuy National Park apply local knowledge which has many highlight features consisting of both strength and certain weakness which is not suitable current natural environment and society. Therefore, beside advantages of the system, local people face difficulties in application.

Above analysis indicated that application local knowledge for deal with water induced hazard is still restrictive. To raise efficiency of dealing with natural calamities for local people, it is necessary to add local knowledge to service system and transfer technical for people as well as provide drought and salinity intrusion – resistant species to localities to make sure that all households access to and apply it for production.

The following table analyzes strength, weakness, opportunities and threats for application local knowledge for dealing with water induced hazard.

Table 1. Analyzing SWOT of application local knowledge



- Be suitable for local characteristics

- Less costly

- Tested over time

- Be easy to apply and find materials from nature.

- Depend on nature

- Be low efficiency, people deal with disasters passively

- Primitive means of production

- Lack of technical and science in agricultural production and aquaculture.

- Self - protection methods in agricultural production by disasters and epidemic are not effective

- Gender inequality



-    The support of authority

-    International and national non-government organizations carry out researches to help local people.

-    A lot of complex natural disaster

-    Exhausted natural resources

-    Polluted environment  

Source: Group discussion (2015)

Therefore, to gain sustainable agriculture and forestry development, it is significant to combine local knowledge and modern knowledge in agricultural and forestry extension agencies. Facing impacts of climate change and rising sea level, coastal residents in general and Giao Thuy region in particular have three basic options: protection, withdrawing, adaptation. Protection method means building up dykes; withdrawing method means changing location of houses or factories or demarcating boundaries of undeveloped areas; adaptation means setting up strong rules or reinforcing alarm system.

  1. Conclusions and recommendations

According to the results of analysis on local knowledge of famer community surrounding buffer zone of Xuan Thuy National Park, local residents still lack many essential skills to respond to water induced hazards, use production practices depending much on natural sources as well as lack capability of promoting the advantages of living area/ neighborhood. Aquaculture and fishery have not gain more efficiency because the local people only carry out processes based on their experience but lack the knowledge on modern and advanced techniques as well as climate change prevention.

Facing this situation, in the coming period, state government need to issue policies to support for training local residents in order to change the direction of livelihood development an reduce the impact of water hazards. It is necessary for state government to make policies which prioritize to support the poor household for coping with nature change, support for training the households, especially focusing on farming and aquaculture (aiming to promote the living area’s strength), open more agriculture extension classes to raise the local knowledge on new and advanced techniques as well as train techniques of aquaculture for the local people including men and women (Aquaculture combination mangrove planting).

Further, specific policies also need to be made to support rulral women in economic development in buffer zone. Nowaday it can be seen that the roles of women have been more or less recognized. 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.


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