Krista Stacia Nordin

Kristf & Stacia Nordin


MEET Kristof Nordin


Let's start with where you are from and your background?

My wife and I are co-founders of Never Ending Food (NEF) in Malawi, Africa. NEF is a community-based initiative which uses Permaculture principles to implement organic, diversified, agroecological, highly-nutritious and non-GMO systems of sustainable living. Never Ending Food works to demonstrate that Malawi already has all the solutions it needs to address current problems of food-insecurity, malnutrition, poverty, and environmental degradation. The greatest barrier which often stands in the way of transforming these ideas into behavior change is simply a change in thinking. Currently, many Malawians view maize as the only ‘food’ and therefore are very committed to the idea of monocropping maize as the principal agricultural crop. Much of Never Ending Food’s teaching tends to place as much emphasis on the ‘why’s’ as it does on the ‘how’s’. It is important for people to develop a genuine understanding of ‘why’ nutritional diversity is important, ‘why’ seasonal and polycultural agriculture systems are so much more productive than current systems, ‘why’ soil and water need to be managed properly, and ‘why’ the use of local resources are so vital Malawi’s future. Once people are able to believe in the ‘why’s,’ the ‘how’s’ become a much easier task to accomplish.

What interested you in hunger and education?

In April of 1997, my wife, Stacia, and I were both sent to do HIV/AIDS prevention work in Malawi, Africa through the U.S. Peace Corps. Stacia is a Registered Dietitian, and I am a Social Worker. As we began our work, we visited various villages to orient ourselves to the areas in which we’d be working. In each of these villages, we asked the people what they viewed as their major problems. Not a single person at that time mentioned HIV or AIDS as being a problem, which was surprising to us considering that Malawi was supposed to be one of the top 10 countries in the world affected by the disease. Instead, people almost unanimously said that food security was their biggest problem.

At the time we arrived in Malawi, it was the dry season so very little was growing and the landscape was blackened by the annual burning of vegetation that occurs in many parts of Africa. We asked why people weren’t growing food and most people replied that water during that time of the year was a problem. As we looked around, however, we saw a lot of water resources that were being wasted. For example, many women would go in the morning to fetch water—which could be up to a kilometer away—and then they would use it once to wash dishes or clothes and discard the waste water on the bare swept soil around their house. Other places, such as the drainage areas around the bathing areas or the end of boreholes had standing water that was just stagnating and breeding mosquitoes. When we asked people about the possibility of using these water sources more productively in the annual production of food, many agreed that it was a possibility, but then would counter with the argument that “you would need to give me seeds and fertilizer”. Neither one of us had a strong background in agriculture, but we were fairly sure that a lot could be accomplished without the need for purchasing commercial seeds and chemicals fertilizers. This was about the time that we got introduced to the concept of Permaculture.

Permaculture is a tool which helps people design systems of sustainable living. It comes from a merger of the words ‘permanent’ and ‘culture’ and goes far beyond agriculture to include concepts of urban design, community organizing, green economics, renewable energy use, and earth-friendly architecture. Permaculture is rapidly spreading throughout the world because it is a thinking tool which allows people to assess their specific needs and then design for the meeting of these needs through the use of locally available resources. This means that there is not one specific way of implementing Permaculture, but rather an unlimited potential for rethinking many of the world’s current challenges.

Throughout the world, Permaculture is now being incorporated into school curriculums and into city/municipal planning; it is being used by individual gardeners and commercial farmers; by community service clubs and churches; and, it is being used to create a sustainable future for many generations to come.

What are the biggest challenges for the issues that you care most about today?

Teaching about Permaculture is one of those things that’s overwhelmingly satisfying, challenging, and frustrating all at the same time. It’s the thing that has kept us in Malawi for over 20 years and also has us pulling our hair out at times. Malawi is at the point where the concepts of Permaculture are eagerly being received by many people. Modern agriculture, combined with the continued slash and burn method of clearing the land and the resulting erosion, has devastated the soil fertility of the country. This over-reliance on the monocropping of maize, combined with poor soil and water management, has left millions in Malawi more susceptible to food insecurity, malnutrition, poverty, and climate change.

Another enormous challenge for Malawi and Africa ‘as a whole’ lies in restoring a sense of pride, value, and respect for the local resources which have been used to sustain the livelihoods of Africans for thousands of generations. Right now, many African countries are turning away from their own resources in favor of the importation of resources from other countries. In Malawi, most of the food that people are now eating did not originate on the African continent. As a result, many local food crops—which are highly nutritious, easy to grow, and well-adapted to the local growing conditions—have become stigmatized and are now seen only as ‘poor people’s’ food, ‘survival food,’ or as a ‘last resort’ to be used only when the maize crops fail. Traditional knowledge of African resources is slowly disappearing and the wisdom of the grandparents is no longer considered to be something useful to the modern definitions of ‘progress’ or ‘development’. Never Ending Food has been working over the years to document many of these local resources and currently has a list of almost 600 foods that Malawians could be growing, eating, and utilizing to address current challenges and help to ensure a sustainable future.

What drives you?

Our main motivating factor probably lies in the recognition of how much potential there is for Permaculture to assist with the problems that we see in Malawi, and how quickly this can be achieved. Permaculture is a holistic approach to living rather than just another agricultural system. This acknowledges that no problem or solution stands on its own. If we look at a simple problem like rainwater runoff, we see that, if left unchecked, it leads to the erosion of soil nutrients become a eutrophication problem in a small rivers, and these small rivers become a flooding problem when they join the larger rivers, and these floods wash debris into Lake Malawi which ends up clogging the hydroelectric turbines and causing power shortages for the entire country. People need to make the connections between the problems they face and the root causes of them, many of which are environmental and can be addressed with the application of Permaculture principles.

In conclusion, what message do you want to deliver to our readers? What do you think your legacy should be?

Currently, in Malawi, maize has become the predominant crop which is grown throughout the country for the nation’s food supply. This shift away from the abundance of natural resources to the monocropping of just one crop has led to many current problems. Most ironically, perhaps, has been the creation of the nation’s chronic ‘hungry season’. Malawi has a rainy season that runs from about December to March. During this period the majority of local farmers plant as much maize as possible, which is then harvested around April and stored for the rest of the year. These ‘hungry seasons’ now occur between the time when the maize reserves from the previous season run short and the maize from the current season is not yet ready for harvesting. This means, that due to an over-reliance on just one crop, Malawi now faces its most serious challenges to food-security during the most agriculturally productive time of the year.
Permaculture principles completely reverse this situation by transforming the rainy season—as well as the other seasons—back into a time of abundance and surplus. Permaculture is designed to mimic the seasonal patterns and diversity of natural ecosystems.

When the term ‘Permaculture’ was first coined in Australia by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, they asked a very simple—yet revolutionary—question: “Why aren’t we growing food the way that nature wants to grow it?” Using this question as a template for implementation, Never Ending Food has been able to demonstrate the enormous potential that Malawi has to end problems like the ‘hungry season’ and malnutrition. When diverse interconnections between natural elements are fostered, rather than eliminated, a balance returns that begins to remedy current imbalances within monocropped agriculture systems.

Through the use of local resources and Permaculture design, Never Ending Food has been able to teach thousands of Malawians simple methods for moving away from the expensive costs of agricultural inputs such as chemicals and purchased seeds. They have also been able to help people to create food systems that are not just food-secure, but more importantly, nutritionally-secure. In addition to helping to ensure access to food, Permaculture systems are being used throughout Malawi to help meet people’s daily needs for fuel, building supplies, natural medicines, income generation, and more. Permaculture is now gaining a foothold in many levels of Malawian society, from government extension programs to non-governmental development organizations; from the commercial sector to the household level, many Malawians are discovering that Permaculture encompasses a multitude of sustainable solutions for a brighter future.

Ag Ext and Inter Aide Visits 043a

Our Manager, Peter Kaniye, teaching agricultural extension officers about the importance of diversified cropping systems

Banda Hills Primary School Dedza 062a

Peter Kaniye discussing locally-available resources with a community committee from a nearby school.

eliminate hunger

About us

Kids Can Make a Difference is a program of iEARN (International Education and Resource Network), the world's largest non-profit global network. iEARN enables teachers and youth to use the Internet and other technologies to collaborate on projects that enhance learning and make a difference in the world.

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