Local knowledge

The knowledge which people in each sub-national setting or community have developed over time and continue to develop with regard to their environment, culture and society.


1. Local is defined in academic and public sector terms in different ways, covering different territorial scales, from community through to larger sub-national jurisdictions such as states and departments. Given the focus of this lexicon on DRI, a preference exists for smaller spatial expressions represented by terms such as community, district, and municipality.

2. It offers a firm basis for designing resilient strategies for infrastructure adopted at the local level.

3. Local knowledge is held by persons and groups with potentially different understandings of the environment and of causal relations that will influence their ways of behaving and acting. These may be contradictory and conflicting.

4. See also “Indigenous knowledge”.

Water harvesting in Alwar, India

The district of Alwar in Rajasthan, India, is prone to various hazards, including severe droughts, due to the state's arid climate and low rainfall. A piped water supply is the primary source of water for the community. Local methods of water harvesting, such as Johads have deteriorated due to lack of maintenance. Johads are earthen percolation ponds that collect rainwater to address water scarcity. To combat this issue, local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the government of Alwar have collaborated to revive these local methods and build new ones to augment the city's piped water supply. Check dams were built along contours or in low-lying areas, and mud and rubble masonry was used to construct embankments on three sides to hold water. Existing johads were rejuvenated through a participatory planning, design and implementation process, and the community was sensitized to rainwater harvesting measures. These efforts have been replicated in other districts of the state, highlighting the potential for local knowledge to address contemporary problems.