Group picture
Climate Change Resilience

1 December 2023, Dubai, UAE – Our Pacific Islands are rich in traditional knowledge that have helped our ancestors predict how the weather will behave long before modern technology and weather forecasting tools were developed. The importance of collecting and recording that traditional and indigenous knowledge to ensure that it not only survives but is incorporated into policies and decision-making was highlighted during a side event on the second day of the 28th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Dubai. 

Ms Siosinamele Lui, the Climate and Oceans Support Programme in the Pacific (COSPPac 3) Traditional Knowledge Officer, stated that when it comes to traditional knowledge work, that we are standing on the shoulders of giants – which include our ancestors who have passed the knowledge down from generation to generation, as well as academics and researches who have paved the way forward for traditional knowledge to be recognised in scientific peer reviewed journals.

“There is a lot of data in our traditional knowledge. Our chants, songs, artefacts, and tattoos all hold data that only we can interpret and understand. However, there has been limited integration of this knowledge into our policies and decision-making  processes” Ms Lui said. 

“Unfortunately, we are seeing the loss of this knowledge that has been passed on by our ancestors as our elders pass before they are documented and safely stored or archived. Through the COSPPac project, we have developed an approach that looks to ensure that our knowledge is not only passed on, but is documented and incorporated into our policies. It is not only an approach, but tools specifically developed to ensure that we are well equipped to do justice to the work.

The Traditional Knowledge Database was developed by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology as part of the COSPPac Programme and currently maintained by the SPREP Information Technology (IT) team,  and was initially piloted in five countries – Vanuatu,Niue, Samoa, Solomon Islands, and Tonga. 

The Database is installed within the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) andcan be used by countries to collect and store traditional knowledge information that can help with weather forecasting and observations.

Most traditional knowledge within the Pacific are taboo, and are sensitive to  families, specific countries, communities, and groups. The databases have built-in systems that ensure that this information is only used for the purposes they are meant for, and are not exploited or made publicly available. 

 Mr Billy Chan Ting, SPREP’s Web Application Development Specialist, said, “We have built sensitivity features into the traditional knowledge database to ensure that this information is secure and is not shared publicly, but only used internally within the Met Services.” 

With the database now in place, and while SPREP IT and the Met Services have been able to maintain them, Mr Chan Ting recognised that there is always more that can be done to take this work to the next level.

“In Vanuatu, a mobile app that can collect observations of traditional knowledge indicators was developed by EarthWatch and the Vanuatu Klaemet Infomesen blong Redy, Adapt, mo Protekt (Van-KIRAP) project. We are now working to find ways to integrate the data collected from the app to be stored in Vanuatu’s traditional knowledge database,” he added. 

Ms Moirah Matou, Project Manager for the Van-KIRAP Project, said that one of the observations they see when working with communities to collect data is that there is re that traditional knowledge and the use of it is at risk of being lost. 

“When we go to a village, we don’t just approach anyone, but we approach the chief that looks after that traditional knowledge. Because of that, not everyone has access to this traditional knowledge and it is slowly being lost, especially the young people who are not taught this in schools.” 

“Through the Van-KIRAP Project, we have taken the traditional knowledge data that has been collected and are using it to create traditional knowledge calendars which we then take back to the communities so that when a weather and climate event occur, they can have something to refer to that is readily available to everyone. This will also ensure that this knowledge is shared to everyone.” 

This then provides and acts as an early warning system people in communities with limited access to technology. They will be able to use this information and data to when there is an onset of an extreme weather event and prepare themselves and their families. 

Ms Rossy Mitiepo, Director of the Niue Meteorological Service, said that the traditional knowledge database has provided Niue with the capacity to record and bring all the traditional knowledge so that it can be stored in one place. This information is enabling the development of Niue’s Climate Traditional Knowledge Document. 

“We need to start documenting this information for our future generations and ensure that it can be passed on,” she added. 

Ms Lavenia Naivalu shared that our elders are rich in traditional knowledge, but when they pass, there is a risk of losing it. This loss of traditional knowledge also contributes to the erosion of cultural identity.
The panel discussion also recognised the importance of traditional knowledge in dealing with the global problem of climate change. 

His Excellency Justin Mohammed, Ambassador for First Nations People in Australia, said, “What we’ve found while speaking to other indigenous people in other countries is that we are all concerned about our role as indigenous people in addressing this problem that we have and being part of the global response to this very important issue of climate change.” 

“There is also another side to that, which is ensuring that what indigenous knowledge we bring to these conversations are protected and not watered down or eroded by people who try to fast-track those solutions to ensure that we keep its purity to be passed down to the next generation.” 

For more information, please contact Ms Siosinamele Lui at [email protected]

The Moana Blue Pacific Pavilion at COP28 is a Pacific partnership with Aotearoa New Zealand and Australia managed by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).
The Pavilion was featured at the twenty-eighth Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change hosted in Dubai, UAE from 30 November – 12 December 2023.
To learn more about the Moana Blue Pacific Pavilion please visit: