Characterising Local Knowledge across the Flood Risk Management Cycle: A Case Study of Southern Malawi

Robert Sakic Trogrlic, Grant B. Wright, Melanie J. Duncan, Marc J. C. van den Homberg, Adebayo J. Adeloye, Faidess Dumbizgani Mwale, Joyce Mwafulirwa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)
144 Downloads (Pure)


People possess a creative set of strategies based on their local knowledge (LK) that allow them to stay in flood-prone areas. Stakeholders involved with local level flood risk management (FRM) often overlook and underutilise this LK. There is thus an increasing need for its identification, documentation and assessment. Based on qualitative research, this paper critically explores the notion of LK in Malawi. Data was collected through 15 focus group discussions, 36 interviews and field observation, and analysed using thematic analysis. Findings indicate that local communities have a complex knowledge system that cuts across different stages of the FRM cycle and forms a component of community resilience. LK is not homogenous within a community, and is highly dependent on the social and political contexts. Access to LK is not equally available to everyone, conditioned by the access to resources and underlying causes of vulnerability that are outside communities’ influence. There are also limits to LK; it is impacted by exogenous processes (e.g., environmental degradation, climate change) that are changing the nature of flooding at local levels, rendering LK, which is based on historical observations, less relevant. It is dynamic and informally triangulated with scientific knowledge brought about by development partners. This paper offers valuable insights for FRM stakeholders as to how to consider LK in their approaches.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1681
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 20 Mar 2019


  • Community-based disaster risk reduction
  • Disaster risk reduction
  • Early action
  • Early warning
  • Flood risk management
  • Local knowledge

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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