At a Glance
- NeverEndingFood (NEF) Permaculture is a home and community outreach that demonstrates approaches to all aspects of sustainable living, focused on resources indigenous to Malawi.
- The United Nations World Food Program’s Sustainable Nutrition Manual is free to download and shares NEF’s work and insights and highlights that “true solutions to…food and nutrition problems lie with the people themselves and the agricultural systems they are using to feed themselves”. There are multiple manuals, flyers, posters, and images to download from the link.
- People create sustainable designs for their homes, offices, schools, churches, cities, etc. such as food forests, fuel efficient kitchens, water harvesting, composting toilets etc. for diverse production of foods, fuel, fodder, fibres, medicines, etc. for better nutrition, water and soil conservation and to transition away from synthetic seed and chemical inputs.
- Ripple effects: projects such as the Permaculture Paradise Institute in Mchinji started by Malawians who learnt at Never Ending Food
In April of 1997, Stacia and Kristof Nordin came to Malawi through the U.S. Peace Corps to do HIV prevention work. Stacia is a Registered Dietitian and Kristof is a social worker by training. Over time, they came to see HIV in the way that the village they were in saw it—as part of a whole. They began to see that a disease that attacks the immune system is connected to malnutrition that compromises the immune system which is connected to the diversity of foods being grown locally which is connected to soil fertility and fresh water availability and so on—an interconnected cycle.
During this time they were introduced to the concepts of permaculture which emphasize:
- Care for the earth
- Care for people
- Fair share of all resources
The Nordins, joined by their daughter Khalidwe in 2001, integrate permaculture into all aspects of their life. They created NeverEndingFood (NEF), their home in Chitedze, a small village about 30 km from the capital city, Lilongwe. Their home serves as a permaculture demonstration as well as a space to train interns and host visitors.
At NEF, they implement a well-design system that provide perennial, year-round access to diverse and nutritious foods and medicines. This approach helps families be more self-sufficient, have access to better nutrition, save money by reducing dependency on expensive agricultural inputs, and access additional income through food processing, diversified markets and unique product ideas. They multiply indigenous resources and share them for others to multiply further.
The advent of input-dependent, mono-culture farming on much of Malawi’s agricultural land led to an agricultural focus and dependence on maize as the primary crop. In spite of being blessed with a tropical climate and plentiful water, most farms now produce one maize crop a year leading to malnutrition due to the reliance on a single crop for the bulk of people’s nutritional needs. In line with traditional farming practices around the world, permaculture diversifies agriculture production to include local fruits and vegetables, animals and animal products, spices and fibres. This improves nutrition while conserving water, improving soil fertility and converting organic matter into a resource!
The Nordins believe that “all solutions come from the people themselves, which helps to provide the self-confidence and ownership that it will take to address future problems in a sustainable way.” Along with the work happening in Chitedze, the efforts and relationships at NEF have initiated and inspired many other projects that use an integrated permaculture approach to address sustainability and nutrition. Recognizing and incorporating these interconnections means that many of the initiatives simultaneously contribute to healthier and more diverse ecosystems, better human health and nutrition, community wellness, and economic resilience.
Food for Thought
What indigenous species do YOU know where YOU are? How are the global, industrialized food and agriculture systems influencing food production in your area?
Keeping these broader systems in mind, what solutions do you see that offer synergistic improvements in nutrition AND sustainability?
Stacia and Kristof Nordin
updated 2023 April