Impacts of climate change are likely to be severe in the Asia-Pacific region but adaptive capacity is weak in most countries and communities. As much of the adaptation is site-specific and has to be developed at the individual and community level, it is crucial to harness local knowledge in designing adaptation strategies. Focus group interviews with diverse stakeholders including local people and policy makers over two years in Bangladesh showed that indigenous strategies still remain the most reliable and sustainable forms of coping with extreme climate events such as floods and droughts.
However, local knowledge was rarely taken into consideration by policy makers in designing adaptation strategies and very few institutional mechanisms exist to mainstream traditional coping and adaptation mechanisms. Several indigenous measures to cope with climate extremes in various sectors (agriculture, forestry, animal husbandry, fisheries and water resources) are outlined here, and the guiding principles for integrating local knowledge in adaptation policy are discussed. It is concluded that a shift in paradigm from "top-down strategy" to a "bottom-up participatory approach" and designing a policy framework comprising both "scientific" and "indigenous" adaptations as well as "planned" and "autonomous" adaptations, is vital to facilitate future adaptation to climate change.
Tools such as global positioning systems, geographic information systems, and relational databases can be used for integrating local knowledge in policy frameworks and in assessing both spatial and temporal impacts of different adaptation options. A spatial framework to integrate local knowledge in adaptation policy is outlined.