Local knowledge saves Nile islanders

Tuti islanders meet at the edge of the River Nile where it passes through Khartoum. They have been recognized as champions of disaster risk reduction (Photo: Flickr)
 

CAIRO, 14 October 14 2015 - The 18,000-strong community of Tuti, a River Nile island in the heart of the Sudanese capital Khartoum, has long been highly vulnerable to floods.

Their knowledge and understanding of the River Nile has kept them free from major loss of life and this week they were recognized as champions of disaster risk reduction by UNISDR.

The inhabitants of Tuti Island, located near where the Blue and White Niles merge, have learned over the past 500 years how to reduce and manage their risk. The Mahas tribe has lived there for centuries.

They successfully faced down major flood crises in 1946, 1988, 1998, 2006, 2013, and 2014, all of which caused great casualties elsewhere in the country, but during which there were no human losses reported on Tuti.

Its eight square kilometres keeps the mainland supplied with fruits and vegetables.

After centuries of experience, Tuti’s inhabitants have accumulated their own indigenous knowledge and skills, developing early warning systems based on different tones of drums, horns and whistles that alerted the community of an upcoming flooding.

Tuti’s successful anti-flood programme also includes early fund-raising, clear roles and responsibilities assignment and especially a strong community involvement, from stablishing watches to building up extra embankments.

Moreover, it is very common that children, men and women are highly skilled in swimming as way to survive when the floods come.

In the islanders’ culture, songs about floods experiences are well known among the population and passed down from generation to generation as a way to remember their success in confronting the floods.

VI Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in the Americas, Cartagena, Colombia 20-22 June 2018 VI Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in the Americas, Cartagena, Colombia 20-22 June 2018.
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