The Ministry of Disaster and Refugee Affairs (MIDIMAR) has announced a new drive to integrate local and indigenous knowledge with science and technology in an effort to increase disaster resilience.
Seraphine Mukantabana, the minister for MIDMAR, announced this in Kigali yesterday, while addressing a news conference on this year’s International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction (IDDR).
The Day, marked annually on October 13, is used to encourage citizens and governments to take part in building more disaster resilient communities and nations.
In Rwanda, it will be marked with a Disaster Risk Reduction week to run from October 27 to November 2, and is expected to boost community awareness on disaster prevention.
The week will be marked under the theme, “Promoting local and indigenous knowledge for disaster resilience.”
Mukantabana said research has started in the two districts of Rubavu and Rutsiro with registered 44 people with indigenous skills to be exploited.
“We started in those two districts where our early warning system also started so that the indigenous knowledge can also be incorporated in the research. We have such people who already have knowledge on signals for disasters like earthquakes, volcanic eruption and lightning, so they can contribute to our system of producing warning messages,” he said.
She said while the early disaster warning system still need enhancement to disseminate reliable information to reduce vulnerability to disaster, local knowledge could be integrated.
The research, expected to roll out across the country, she added, will document indigenous knowledge to be disseminated.
“Knowledge is the pillar to cope with disaster and its effects. We need technological and scientific knowledge on the climate, earth, wind, planning and others, but there is also indigenous knowledge that plays a big role in intervention. Such knowledge is observed in ancient times where people predicted climatic changes by observing biodiversity and then know how to strengthen their roofs against winds or plant drought-resistant crops, among others,” she said.
Experts argue that including indigenous mechanisms encourages community participation in reducing disaster risk.
More preparations ahead of predicted heavy rains
Minister Mukantabana, meanwhile, also disclosed that a team from the ministry is conducting research on deploying high capacity lightning rods to protect households.
According to Jean Baptiste Nsengiyumva, the director of disaster risk reduction and preparedness, since January, disasters caused deaths of 68 people and destroyed 1,147 houses, 652 hectares of crops, killed 32 animals, while 48 bridges were damaged. The cost of the damage was estimated at over Rwf4bn.
The ministry says preparations are still underway ahead of predicted heavy rains.
“We are preparing by identifying rivers and areas that are prone to flooding. We are also considering alternative means of transport if some bridges collapse,” he said.
Nsengiyumva revealed that next week officials from regional governments will gather in Nairobi, Kenya, to assess if there are some changes in El Nino predictions and other weather patterns.
The ministry has also set up a team with rescue materials such as temporary shelters in areas most prone to disasters, according officials.
So far 41,127 households (85%) out of 47,474 have been shifted from high risk zones, but about 6,345 households still need to be relocated.