Recognizing Indigenous Knowledge for Disaster Management: Smong, Early Warning System from Simeulue Island, Aceh
A 9.1M earthquake occurred in Indian Ocean on 26 December 2004 and caused tsunami disaster that devastated many areas in Asian and African countries. Aceh Province, the closest areas from the epicenter, received huge impacts. With no early warning system, poor disaster management, not enough knowledge about tsunami disaster and the huge scale of disaster impacts, it caused a high number of victims. Death toll reached 200,000 people; while in Simeulue Island, the victims were only 7 people from 78,000 of the total population (2000). The story of Smong (means “tsunami in” Devayan Language) that inherited from generation to generation since 1907 saved the Simeulueans. Smong naturally becomes an early warning system anytime earthquakes occur in this island. In other parts of Aceh in Sumatra, stories and messages about tsunami that occurred in the past can be found in some oral literatures, poems and songs; but the community did not recognize them and those cannot be used as Disaster Risk Reduction tool. Indigenous knowledge can be a powerful tool for disaster risk reduction; but, without recognition and utilization, it is merely a part of common things in community. The aim of this research was how to capitalize indigenous knowledge in order to improve disaster management and reduce the risk through the community based on success story of Smong Simeulue. Recognized indigenous knowledge should be adaptable, transferable and modified according to the community and environment conditions. Empowering local community to recognize valuable Indigenous Knowledge for Disaster Risks Reduction can improve the future of Human Security. This preliminary research was conducted by learning from Smong success story through the media, literatures and interview. To keep sustainability of Indigenous Knowledge for Disaster Risks Reduction, a combination of local knowledge with new technology will be very useful.