Impacts of multiple hazards on small island communities: perspectives from North Sulawesi, Indonesia

Rampengan, Mercy Maggy Franky (2015) Impacts of multiple hazards on small island communities: perspectives from North Sulawesi, Indonesia. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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Communities on small islands are often characterized as vulnerable and marginalized. The small size and isolation of these islands allegedly exposes them to a wide range of internal and external hazards. Additionally, many small islands are located in peripheral geographical locations and are socioeconomically and politically marginal. Risks to communities inhabiting these places are thus understood as stemming from exposure to hazards, especially as compounded by a marginal status that reduces the ability to deal with emergencies and environmental changes – including those that have socio-economic impacts. In response to these 'problems', external intervention in these communities tend to portray "at risk" communities in particular ways, often failing to appreciate the specificity of the locality and of the community strategies that help buoy community strength.

Using mainly participatory methods and other conventional forms of data collection (semistructured interviews, observation and secondary data), this research explores the capacities of three villages on three different small islands (Siau Island-Kinali village, Ruang Island- Laingpatehi village, and Lembeh Island-Mawali village) in North Sulawesi, Indonesia. The difference between these island villages is striking, especially the islands' geographical context and economic activities, which focus on fishing (Laingpatehi village), farming (Kinali village) and diversified strategies of wage labour/farming/fishing (Mawali village). Ruang is an active volcanic island, which results in limited physical space for housing and farming. Siau has one of the most active volcanoes in Indonesia: Karangetang. Mawali is close to Bitung on the mainland of Sulawesi with its international seaport and industries.

The conceptual framing of the research is bolstered by discussions of 'capacity' as a framework to understand locality and the interlinked nature of resources in communities. This capacity documented in this research was assessed from a sustainable livelihoods perspective that identified the 'assets' that enabled villagers to cope with hazards and other constraints. This overall research approach enabled communities to speak of their capacities, and promoted ways of speaking about the communities that focused on strengths and resourcefulness. This framework is a particularly useful approach for small island research. It moves beyond the standard 'vulnerability' or 'needs assessment' approach which tends to fuel undeliverable expectations of funding and focuses on a negative rather than a positive outcome.

A central tenet of community capacity in this research was a strong social cohesion enabling the community to organize and confront hazards and other constraints. A diversified livelihood strategy drawing on the small island environment and its coastal and marine resources, on nonrural-based modes of livelihoods and on remittances from other parts of Indonesia (and abroad) underpinned people's lives. Government assistance only played a supporting role. In the case of small islands in North Sulawesi, remoteness -- rather than being a source of vulnerability -- provides access to valued resources and facilitates innovation. As such, these communities have adopted strategies that enable them to prosper in spite of the risks of living on a small island with an active volcano, limited arable land, plant diseases, depletion of fish resources and other natural hazards.

This research explores these issues in detail, making a case for appropriate responses to help small island communities to cope with disasters. I used participatory methods that position villagers as agents with capacities. In so doing, I made recommendations about future Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) strategies, arguing there should be more emphasis on reinforcing the existing capacities of communities rather than on physical protection and post-disaster responses.

Item ID: 41153
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: at risk; disaster risk reduction; emergencies; environmental services; family studies; hazard mitigation; Indonesia; island communities; island people; natural hazards; natural resource management; needs assessment; North Sulawesi; resourcefulness; small islands; Sulawesi; vulnerable communities
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Publications arising from this thesis are available from the Related URLs field. The publications are:

Chapter 4: Rampengan, Mercy M.F., Boedhihartono, Agni Klintuni, Law, Lisa, Gaillard, J.C., and Sayer, Jeffrey (2014) Capacities in facing natural hazards: a small island perspective. International Journal of Disaster Risk Science, 5 (4). pp. 247-264.

Date Deposited: 02 Dec 2015 02:23
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050202 Conservation and Biodiversity @ 30%
05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050209 Natural Resource Management @ 30%
16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1603 Demography > 160301 Family and Household Studies @ 40%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9610 Natural Hazards > 961006 Natural Hazards in Marine Environments @ 34%
97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970105 Expanding Knowledge in the Environmental Sciences @ 33%
94 LAW, POLITICS AND COMMUNITY SERVICES > 9401 Community Service (excl. Work) > 940110 Environmental Services @ 33%
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