Perceptions of ethnicity, local knowledge and sustainable livelihoods in relation to DRR: The case of Nsukka in South-East Nigeria

Iloka, Nnamdi (2017) Perceptions of ethnicity, local knowledge and sustainable livelihoods in relation to DRR: The case of Nsukka in South-East Nigeria. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

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This research evaluates how cultural factors impact the response to adverse events. Vulnerability is a function of socio-economic conditions which may be accentuated by adverse conditions. Population growth, socio-economic structures, culture, scientific and local knowledge, and the approach to climate change are some of the factors which influence vulnerability to hazards in local communities. These factors shape the perceptions of individuals in communities towards hazards and disasters, perceptions which could lead to increased vulnerability or efficient adaptation and mitigation initiatives. This research takes an interdisciplinary approach to assess the perceptions of the Nsukka people of Enugu state, Nigeria, towards hazards and disasters, and to understand how government influence, local knowledge and livelihood assets determine the vulnerability of households to hazards and disasters in local communities. The objectives of the research are to ascertain how the combination of local perceptions, local culture and livelihood assets influence hazards and disasters in Nsukka communities. The research also reviews the role of government in Nsukka communities’ hazards management. To attain these objectives, mixed methods encompassing qualitative and quantitative approaches were used to gather data. An initial pilot study was undertaken to ascertain the hazards and disasters affecting communities in different states in South-East Nigeria. During the main study, purposive sampling method was used to select the communities in Nsukka where semi-structured interviews were used to gather data from respondents. Questionnaires were also distributed to a group of respondents in the communities involved with disaster risk reduction at the local level.

The findings from the study show that communities are continually affected by different hazards and although local communities are aware of these hazards, their perceptions to what constitute local hazards differ, from perceptions in terms of existing environmental conditions to perceptions in terms of general conditions which increase vulnerability. Corruption in government, lack of trust in the political system and non-commitment of relevant stakeholders increase vulnerable conditions in local communities. Findings suggest that the perceptions of people from other regions of the country towards Nsukka for its role during the Nigerian Civil War (The Biafran War) has led to lack of trust and ignorance from relevant stakeholders, which has increased the vulnerability of the communities to hazards. Nsukka is located at the border between South-East and Middle-Belt Nigeria. The combined effects of desertification in Northern Nigeria and migration of herdsmen to farming communities are creating new conflict hazards. The study also found that ignored communities develop reliance on each other over time, making use of few available assets to tackle vulnerability due to decades of unsustainable development. The research found that self-reliance has helped local households survive the impacts of hazards for generations. Individuals and households in local communities usually deal with hazards and disasters using personal ideas and local knowledge of their environment, together with the help of livelihood assets, especially social assets. Findings suggest that local culture and tradition has also influenced the impacts of hazards and livelihoods in communities. While local knowledge and local culture has helped with adaptation to the hazards which exist in local communities, some aspects of local culture could increase the vulnerability of some groups such as women, to hazards in local communities.

While there are some initiatives by government and some stakeholder agencies to mitigate the impact of hazards in some Nsukka communities, the research shows that some of these initiatives have not been very effective due to diminished resources, education, information and coordination. Other findings from the research show that local people have limited understanding on the concept of climate change. Respondents in local communities highlight traditional, cultural and religious factors as the reasons for the changing climate, despite increasing heatwaves and variable rainfall patterns which have led to unpredictable planting seasons and has also contributed to floods and expansion of erosion in local communities. This research further suggests that communities continue to carry out their daily activities in the presence of hazards and households are more interested in resources essential for daily survival than in resources necessary to reduce vulnerability to hazards. The findings from the research point to the need for improved social protection for local communities, while using knowledge from the communities to develop disaster risk reduction strategies suited for different communities. The study is limited to Nsukka communities and Enugu state of Nigeria; however,
findings from the research lead to recommendations for efficient disaster management and risk reduction strategies for stakeholders in developing countries context. Vulnerability assessment in local communities is essential in the development of hazards and disaster management plans for communities. Hazards information shared through credible channels between local communities and governments at all levels creates a platform for effective disaster management policies from a bottom-up approach.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: L700 Human and Social Geography
Department: Faculties > Engineering and Environment > Geography and Environmental Sciences
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: Becky Skoyles
Date Deposited: 10 Oct 2018 14:37
Last Modified: 20 Sep 2022 15:30

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