Adaptation to climate change: Does traditional ecological knowledge hold the key?

Nadzirah Hosen, Hitoshi Nakamura, Amran Hamzah

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Citations (Scopus)


The traditional knowledge of indigenous people is often neglected despite its significance in combating climate change. This study uncovers the potential of traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) from the perspective of indigenous communities in Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo, and explores hew TEK helps them to observe and respond to local climate change. Data were collected through interviews and field work observations and analysed using thematic analysis based on the TEK framework. The results indicated that these communities have observed a significant increase in temperature, with uncertain weather and seasons. Consequently, drought and wildfires have had a substantial impact on their livelihoods. However, they have responded to this by managing their customary land and resources to ensure food and resource security, which provides a respectable example of the sustainable management of terrestrial and inland ecosystems. The social networks and institutions of indigenous communities enable collective action which strengthens the reciprocal relationships that they rely on when calamity strikes. Accordingly, the communities maintain their TEK through cultural festivals and oral traditions passed from one generation to another. TEK is a practical tool that helps indigenous communities adapt to climate risks and promotes socio-ecological resilience, which upholds social empowerment and sustainable resource management.

Original languageEnglish
Article number676
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Jan 1


  • Adaptation
  • Climate change
  • Climate change adaptation
  • Indigenous knowledge
  • Indigenous people
  • Local knowledge
  • Resilience
  • Socio-ecological systems
  • Traditional ecological knowledge
  • Traditional knowledge

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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