Traditional Knowledge Can Help Communities Adapt to a Changing Climate

Traditional Knowledge Can Help Communities Adapt to a Changing Climate Ⓒ

Living heritage can be a powerful source of resilience against changing climatic conditions. In the Hindu Kush mountain ranges of Pakistan, the Kalasha people practice suri jagek—a meteorological and astronomical knowledge system based on observing the sun, moon, stars, and shadows.

The Kalasha people have used this complex system of knowledge for centuries to predict weather patterns, plan their harvests, and raise livestock. Passed down orally through proverbs, folk stories and songs, suri jagek is used, for instance, to calculate the right time to take livestock to higher pastures, where it is cooler in the summer months. Suri jagek connects the Kalasha people to their land and is central to daily life. As climate change leads to more extreme, less predictable weather conditions, traditional systems of knowledge such as suri jagek can reinforce the ability of communities to respond collectively to these changes and ensure the continuity of their way of life.

Recognizing the threats facing this valuable system of knowledge, suri jagek (observing the sun), traditional meteorological and astronomical practice based on the observation of the sun, moon, and stars in reference to the local topography was inscribed on the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding in 2018.