Tuesday, November 04, 2008

BRIEF REPORT on Vernacular Disaster Risk Management in Indonesia

BRIEF REPORT on Vernacular Disaster Risk Management in Indonesia
Jonatan Lassa *

One of the most important messages in the 4th Community Based Disaster Risk Management Conference (CBDRM) in Bali, 19-21 August 2008, is the need to conceptualize vernacular disaster risk management in Indonesia. Dr. Syamsul Ma'arif, the head of National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) pleaded Indonesian experts and scientists to invent ‘homegrown’ concepts concerning disaster risk reduction.
“Community based” is probably closer to the meaning of ‘vernacular’ – claimed here as a ‘better term’ – of Latin origin refers to any value homemade, for consumption at home. This kind of intellectual positioning is suggested to be read from historical viewpoints as noted further.

Once upon a time in Indonesia, probably back to mid 1990s, most pilot projects that adopted ‘community based” approach to disaster risk reduction in Indonesia, were actually supported by international organizations such as INGOs and United Nations (UN) agencies. Just quite recently, vernacular approach to disaster risk management lately adopted intentionally by local universities and disaster management experts.
This trend is not exclusive to Indonesia but quite similar to most Southeast and East Asian countries. However, this approach is probably ‘trickle down’ effects of postmodernism - which stressed the particularity in contrast to universalism masked by sciences at the universities worldwide - in coupling with post development critics – which showed the failure of international aid in bringing ‘Western’ style of development to most developing counties in 1980s/90s.

Community based disaster risk reduction is not synonymous with vernacularism. It is about local innovation in responding to the rise of disaster risk today. It is indeed a composite principle of efficiency, effectiveness and legitimacy in dealing with local level risk at the grass root level. CBDRM is also about how grass root communities interpret and/or construe their own disaster risks, including making their own priorities of actions, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of local performance.

Multistage institutionalization of “community based” approach to disaster risk reduction in Indonesia is the main message of the 4th CBDRM conference. First, the need of ‘indigenization’ of global knowledge (or so called scientific knowledge) of disaster risk. Indigenization is probably a weak term but what is actually meant is about conceptualizing some existing indigenous practices of disaster risk in Indonesia. Localization of scientific knowledge (may equal to knowledge transfers) through international aid can easily be seen as ‘asing’ – something external, strange and not appropriate nor sustainable for the locals. Secondly, the annual CBDRM Conference is meant to be a national platform for all stakeholders such as communities, government, local/international NGOs, United Nations, community of practice and the universities.

Local production of CBDRM knowledge is seen as one aspect of institutionalization of the approach. Inter-university cooperation in research and development of vernacular disaster risk management in the future can be strengthened through research incentives committed by the current national government. BNPB can also build their link to existing 25-30 disaster mitigation research centers all over Indonesia.

The construed that CBDRM is an imported framework/concept is probably not appropriate. Should one understood or signified it as a self-interpretation of grass root community amid disaster risks (including the everyday risks), unproductive controversy surrounding the ‘origin’ of the concept may be eliminated.

At the practical level, a few examples can be offered to prove the empirical evident of the approach. Smong (a local term for tsunami) early warning system in Simelue islands, or Omo Hada ¬as the inherited practice of earthquake mitigation in Nias Island, just to mention a few, can be good lessons learnt for all.
Adoption of CBDRM in Indonesia

Globally, CBDRM has been developed as a new body of knowledge, invented to close the gaps left by mainstream hazard/disaster scientists which highly oriented by the use of high tech. and science which marginalized local knowledge in the past and deeply trapped in single minded disciplinary science.

Krishna S. Pribadi from Disaster Mitigation Center at Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) classified three phases of the development of CBDRM as a conceptual framework. First generation was featured by ‘imported’ model, simply cut and paste solutions. This was clearly seen from available CBDRM modules simply translated from outside into local context in Indonesia. The second generation, CBDRM was featured by some adjustment to local context in Indonesia but still highly influenced by external actors coming from international organizations. The third generation is still in the making, and expected to be led by local actors, conceptualized by local experts/scientists, promoting local knowledge due to fuller understanding of local disaster risk context.

Some gaps from the discussion about vernacular disaster risk management may arise from failure to understand the different between local knowledge and traditional/indigenous knowledge. Borrowing from Prof. Dieter-Evers (2008) local knowledge is one form of processed knowledge derived from either global/scientific knowledge with (or without) traditional/indigenous knowledge. Local risk knowledge is one form of risk knowledge that is produced (and reproduced) at the local level. Hence, the utilisation of such knowledge into practices at an appropriate locality may be called local wisdom.

The adoption of vernacular approach to disaster risk reduction (DRR) or so-called CBDRM, should based on factor such as effectiveness, efficiency, equity and legitimacy in order to avoid both the Samaritan dilemma – high oriented external charity aid responding to local risk – on the one hand, and the un-sustainability that anchored on the high tech and persisted structural approach to disaster risk.
High expectation that may arise is that the ‘national platform’ should also serve to make all efforts, practices, conceptual understandings and policy move towards convergency in dealing with overall disaster risk in Indonesia at community level. Looking at the level of participation, where about more 220 participants joined the conference, coming from more than 70 different organizations (mixed between governmental, local NGOs, INGOs, UNs, local Universities including communities’ representatives, such expectation should be a good thing be kept going indeed.

Building national platform of vernacular disaster risk reduction should also be complemented by provincial platform as currently being exercised in a few provinces as encourages by the new National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB). The platforms are expected to share as hubs for knowledge and information sharing between all stakeholders with consistent efforts in reducing risk is sustained. The conference in itself is expected to serve as an Indonesian national platform for disaster risk reduction with vernacular approach.

*. PhD Candidate - Research on Disaster Risk Governance in Indonesia, University of Bonn, Germany. Lead editor for the 4th CBDRM Conference 2008 Proceedings.
**. This was coined by Neil Adger as EEEL principles for development and NRM sustainability.


Post a Comment

<< Home