Q and A: The role of Traditional Knowledge in Pacific Meteorology with Siosina Lui of SPREP

In August this year, all Pacific Meteorological Services, donors, development partners and stakeholders will be coming together for the Fourth Pacific Meteorological Council to be hosted in Honiara, Solomon Islands from the 14 – 17 August, followed by the Second Pacific Ministerial Meeting on Meteorology on 18 August.

In this special Q and A feature we learn more about the Met Services in the Pacific, get to know more about one of the key people behind the scenes, and learn about the Pacific Meteorological Council.
Siosinamele Lui is the Climate Traditional Knowledge Officer based at SPREP. She has spent a decade working for the Samoa Meteorological Service, in particular the Geoscience and Oceans observations before working at SPREP.

Sina was instrumental in establishing the Earthquake and Tsunami Monitoring Network and Warning Centre for Samoa, she has also enjoyed providing advice and mentoring other young Pacific island women working in this area.

"I was always interested in oceanography, volcanoes and earthquakes and the Met Service was the closest to working with all three at the same time. Prior to working with the Met Service, I previously worked at the Department of Environment and Conservation as a Conservation officer."

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Siosina taking part in discussions during the Pacific Island Climate Outlook Forum, 2016. Photo: SPREP

Last year SPREP embraced a project on Climate Traditional Knowledge in partnership with the Australian Bureau of Meteorology in Niue, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu. The goal of which was to help preserve weather and combine traditional knowledge with current met forecasts and increase the recognition of traditional knowledge to build resilience to extreme events.

Work for this will include collecting, documenting, storing and analysing TK stories to identify climate indicators used by pilot communities. There will also be a verification of the indicators to check the accuracy of data collected before TK is integrated with modern forecasting.

Q. Could you tell us a little bit about Climate Traditional Knowledge?
Climate Traditional Knowledge is the knowledge held by those living on the land, whether they are indigenous or non-indigenous peoples, which can be used for climate forecasting. This knowledge is not static and can continually evolve over time and it is often imbedded in practice and belief.

Q How does Climate Traditional Knowledge benefit our communities?
Our communities have always been using TK to forecast and plan, from organising daily activities to festivals, planting and harvesting of crops to marriage ceremonies. Traditional knowledge has always benefitted our communities. The knowledge attained and passed down from generation to generation allowed our communities to survive. Our Pacific communities have and are still using traditional forecasting methods and techniques to forecast weather and climate events.
From looking at the biological (animal and plant behaviour) and astronomical indicators (moon phases, stars) our Pacific communities knew what will happen two to three months ahead before the onset of the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phases.
Traditional knowledge provides the extra information, a traditional warning system which allows communities to prepare, respond and utilise traditional coping strategies and mechanisms that have helped increased communities resilience.

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Q. So what is it that you do with the countries as part of your work to help record and increase value of Traditional Knowledge?
I work with the Climate Services teams as well as my TK counterparts from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. I work with the five TK countries to setup their TK climate monitoring networks, conduct TK survey and database trainings, provide TK verification and forecast integration training, provide technical advice and assist them with producing and publishing information products based on the climate traditional knowledge collected by the Met services.

Q. What is something really interesting that you have learnt in this?
What I've found really interesting about this project is that it makes it easier to have conversations about climate change/climate science with communities. The TK project is a communication tool, and it bridges the gap between science and social science, between policies and technical work in the world of Meteorological services. What may be difficult to explain in meteorological terms can be easily understood through traditional knowledge because that is what our Pacific communities can relate to and understand. When talking about seasonal forecasting, not everyone can understand the technicality of the information, but if we use traditional knowledge, the seasonal terminology, language and prediction techniques communities are used to, it increase the intake of scientific information as well as increasing community resilience. In some communities, they know that it will be an active cyclone season if the turtles nest higher up in the sand dunes ( Vanuatu TK). This knowledge adds value to seasonal forecasts.

Q. We are gearing up the fourth Pacific Meteorological Council. What are you hoping will be an outcome from this meeting?
I would like to see the following outcomes at the conclusion of the meeting:
1. Endorsements of the Climate Roadmap. The Climate Roadmap is a detailed guidance of how we are going to achieve the priorities set out in the Pacific Islands Meteorological Strategy. This includes an outline of activities to be done at the regional and national level to achieve these priorities.
2. Forging new donor partnerships
3. Endorsement of key recommendations from the different PMC panel of experts.

Q. How do you see the outcomes of this meeting impact the lives of our Pacific island communities and people? Why is this an important meeting for our region?
The outcomes of the meeting determines the support we at the Pacific Met Desk can provide to the countries, sets priorities the region focuses on, ensures collaboration and a coordinated approach to address issues that are common to national Met Services

The Fourth Pacific Meteorological Council to be hosted in Honiara, Solomon Islands from the 14 – 17 August, followed by the Second Pacific Meteorological Ministers Meeting on 18 August.

Partners for the Pacific Meteorological Council include all Pacific Meteorological Services as well as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (USA), the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (USA) and the UK Met Office.
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