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Local people’s perceptions of climate change and associated impacts in Papua

Submitted by Emilia Pramova 16th July 2012 12:40

Yoke village, among the mangrove forests, Papua. Photo by Mokhammad Edliadi/CIFOR.

Local knowledge can help overcome the obstacles in adaptation planning related to the uncertainties of climate science. Understanding local people’s perceptions of climate variability and seasonality, and how their lives are impacted, could lead to better strategies and no-regret measures aimed at protecting the most vulnerable communities.

CIFOR scientists conducted interviews with people in six villages in the Mamberamo Raya Regency of Papua – an extensive area covering mangrove swamps and upland forest – gathering detailed information on what changes people believed were taking place in their territories, such as if the seasons seemed unusually dry or wet, or if the forests seemed to be shrinking or growing.

Livelihoods were not found to be very sensitive to climate due to the low seasonality, adapted production systems, and the presence of swamps and mangroves that act as “buffers” to different climatic hazards.  

But while communities did not perceive much variation in temperature or precipitation, they did notice that extreme events, such as floods, have been occurring more frequently in the last decade.

Furthermore, villagers did not consider climatic events to be the key drivers of change in their landscapes and livelihoods. They were more concerned with infrastructure development, economic activities and new settlements as drivers of change and underlying causes of impact. This information will help understand what policies and strategies can be developed in the area for land use planning, natural resource management and adaptation.

The study is part of a broader research programme conducted by CIFOR in collaboration with partners CIRAD & CI  to better understand how to integrate local priorities into land use plans, and how local people can play a role in decision-making. The research team also worked on participatory mapping of important resources and local land uses to support policy makers in planning development projects in the region. This research is funded by AFD.

For more information, please contact Manuel Boissière