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External stakeholders’ attitudes towards and engagement with local knowledge in disaster risk reduction: are we only paying lip service?

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Robert Sakic Trogrlic, Melanie Duncan, Grant Wright, Marc van den Homberg, Adebayo Adeloye, Faidess Mwale, Colin McQuistan

Original languageEnglish
Article number102196
JournalInternational Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction
PublishedMay 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: The authors wish to thank all the individuals that volunteered their time to take part in this study. Also, we thank the Scottish Government for funding this research through the Hydro Nation PhD Scholarship awarded to the first author. We also thank Tanja Hendriks from University of Edinburgh for reviewing the draft manuscript before submission and providing valuable feedback. Melanie Duncan's contribution to this article was supported by British Geological Survey NC-ODA grant NE/R000069/1 : Geoscience for Sustainable Futures. Melanie Duncan publishes with permission of the Executive Director, British Geological Survey (UKRI). Finally, we want to thank three anonymous reviewers for their suggestions that significantly improved the quality of the manuscript. Publisher Copyright: © 2021 Elsevier Ltd Copyright: Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

King's Authors


In the research and policy environment, local knowledge (LK) is increasingly seen as an important component of building the resilience of communities and delivering sustainable disaster risk reduction (DRR) approaches tailored to local contexts. Many studies focus on documenting LK in different contexts; however, far less emphasis has been given to understanding how external stakeholders (i.e. government, NGOs, consultants) engage with and perceive the value of LK for DRR. Through an intepretivist epistemology and a case study research design, this paper sets out to fill in this gap by engaging with external stakeholders involved with community-based flood risk management in Malawi. It bases its findings on a thematic analysis of qualitative data collected through focus group discussions (n=7) and key informant interviews (n=69) conducted in 2016 and 2017.The findings show that although there is an appreciation of the importance of LK in rhetoric, its inclusion in DRR practice remains limited. The strong dichotomy between local and scientific knowledge persists and it has led to the further marginalisation of LK. The international policy and research push for LK in DRR is therefore not translated to realities on the ground. To the best of our knowledge, this presents one of the first studies of external stakeholders' attitudes of LK and how these influence its overall position in DRR. The paper calls for further development of knowledge co-production processes that will be based on giving equal weight, recognition and importance to LK.

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