Differences in effectiveness of indigenous and modern knowledge to reduce vulnerabilities of rural communities to natural disaster (Case study: Rural communities of Khoresh-Rostam district, Khalkhal Township, Iran)

Document Type : Research Paper


1 Professor, Geography and Rural Planning, Tarbiat Modares University, Tehran, Iran

2 PhD Candidate in Geography and Rural Planning, Tarbiat Modares University, Tehran, Iran


The study on natural disaster management literature shows that nowadays a new approach has been brought up as social based management.  This kind of management considers knowledge, capacities and cultures to reduce vulnerabilities to natural disasters. The community has a central role in disaster management. The focus of attention in disaster management must be on local community. Therefore, Risk reduction strategies should work to reduce vulnerability and at the same time capitalize the inherent social and cultural capacities of the communities. Community-based Disaster Management (CBDM) approach attempts to include the knowledge of the local afflicted people in disaster risk reduction strategies to help reduce the vulnerability of disaster-prone communities. Many indigenous communities understand their local environment and care for it, maintain lessons from past disasters, and are invested in the place where they live. The use of indigenous knowledge in the field of disaster risk reduction is an additional tool that can help protect the vulnerable communities. Currently, the approach of application of indigenous methods along with the modern techniques to reduce vulnerability from disasters is concerned. Due to the particular position of Iran geography, the types of natural disasters such as drought, flood, earthquake, glaciers, avalanche, and etc. are likely to occur. Iran rural communities have low safety against the natural disasters, because most of villages are in connection with the natural environment and unsuitable locations. Multiple natural hazards often occur in Khoresh Rostam district (the study area). This is due to geographical position of the region. Rural communities in Iran history have been dealing with the natural and socio-economic hazards and agricultural activities in order to reduce unexpected dangers. They have used different methods. Various innovations in societies, particularly rural societies are being carried out to reduce vulnerability. These could be considered as a compliment to modern knowledge. This present article has analyzed indigenous and modern knowledge in rural communities to test whether they have been effective in reducing the effects of natural disasters.
Research purposes:
- The discovery and collection of indigenous and modern methods of reducing the effects of natural hazards in rural areas of Khoresh Rostam district of Khalkhal township, and
- Assessment of the different effectiveness of indigenous and modern knowledge and technology to reduce the effects of natural disasters including earthquakes, glacial, drought and flood in rural areas of Khoresh Rostam district of  Khalkhal township.
In order to achieve the above objectives, the following hypotheses are tested:
The effectiveness of indigenous and modern knowledge for reducing vulnerability to natural hazards of earthquake, glacial, drought and flood is different, and indigenous knowledge has scored more in comparison with modern knowledge in rural areas of Khoresh Rostam district, Khalkhal Township. The research method is descriptive, analytical and surveying techniques. The system of gathering information is librarian and free techniques including observation, interview and questionnaire.
First in relying on documents and question of the sample number, the dominant natural disasters were identified. Then, the damage caused by natural disasters of the region was identified and were used as indicator. Then, indigenous and modern knowledge in rural communities of the study area was covered. Then a developed questionnaire was distributed in the studied villages. The Independent-Sample T test by SPSS software has been used to examine the hypothesis.
Results and Discussion
Based on the research on natural hazards, indigenous and modern measures, several strategies have been identified in reduction of risk of natural disasters in rural communities of the study area. But, generally indigenous and modern strategies in the region can be classified in three categories of protecting people, livestock and agricultural products, and protecting agricultural lands, orchards and pastures. These can be categorized also in a few groups including construction technology, technologies of land management, cropping pattern, zoning, land use, water management and etc.
In the structure category, indigenous and modern techniques are zonation, stability and pattern of architecture and design. It is notable that indigenous design and construction techniques have been developed according to resistance against storm, glaciers, earthquakes, climate features and environmental conditions. In zonation category, the included strategies are construction of homes and facilities away from hazardous region. In land use category, the strategies are protection of land and prevention of soil loss, landslide and erosion. For the cropping pattern, most indigenous techniques were considered in the region. These are including cropping and harvesting of production and the type of land for harvesting. They have been developed according to drought, glacier, and storm disaster. The planting and harvesting time has the least damage from a hazard. In the area of water management, the techniques used to water collection and management, soil conservation, and erosion reduction. The results of hypothesis analysis of “difference between indigenous and modern knowledge efficiency on reduction of natural disaster vulnerability of earthquake, glacial, drought and flood in environmental, physical and economic dimensions in rural areas of Khoresh Rostam district shows that there is a significant difference between indigenous and modern knowledge efficiency in the reduction (0.05 alpha level). 
The results show that the indigenous knowledge has been more efficient against earthquake, glacial, drought and flood in rural areas of Khoresh Rostam district. We can say that the people of the villages in the study area have good local knowledge in dealing with natural hazards and disaster management. This shows importance of the indigenous knowledge in process of natural disaster management. Generally, the local knowledge of disaster cannot be separated from other knowledge systems in communities, i.e., modern scientific knowledge. It is suggested that those responsible for rural planning and natural disaster management consider indigenous knowledge of rural community. Because this knowledge is obtained from the symbiosis of rural with environments and disaster, not only it is effective in reduction of disaster risk, but it is also in direction with sustainable development.


Main Subjects

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Volume 47, Issue 4 - Serial Number 4
January 2016
Pages 727-742
  • Receive Date: 29 December 2013
  • Revise Date: 26 January 2015
  • Accept Date: 03 October 2014
  • First Publish Date: 22 December 2015