NeverEndingFood Permaculture (Malawi)

Using a Permaculture Approach to Nutrition and Community Wellness in Malawi

Environmental DegradationFood PricesIndustrialized, Capitalist Systems

At a Glance

  • NeverEndingFood (NEF) Permaculture is a home and community outreach that demonstrates approaches to all aspects of sustainable living
  • Villages creates designs such as food forests, fuel efficient kitchens, water harvesting, composting toilets etc. in homes 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.
  • Demonstration plots created in many locations, including at the local Church to spread permaculture understanding
  • National Sustainable Food and Nutrition Programme includes (i) food production skills and knowledge and (ii) sustainability, permaculture, health, hygiene, sanitation, gender, HIV, economics and environment integrated into curriculum
  • The United Nations World Food Programs 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.
  • Ripple effects: projects such as the Permaculture Paradise Institute in Mchinji started by Malawians who lived and 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 Dietician 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:

  1. Care for the earth
  2. Care for people
  3. Equally sharing all resources

Over time, the Nordins, joined by their daughter, Khalidwe in 2001, began to integrate permaculture approaches into all aspects of their life and work. They created Never Ending Food (NEF) Community Outreach and Education Centre in Chitedze, a small village about 30 km. from the capital city, Lilongwe. Today, in 2020, their home serves as a permaculture demonstration plot as well as a space to conduct trainings and host visits. At NEF, they implement design systems 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.

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
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? 

Contact Information
Stacia and Kristof Nordin