Stacia Nordin, co-founder of Never Ending Food, recently participated in a podcast presented by Voices, part of an online toolkit aimed at supporting sustainability in nutrition. Voices is supported by the International Confederation of Dietetic Associations (ICDA), and this series of podcasts shares stories of the nutrition and dietetic practitioners from around the world who are working to deepen connections between people and food systems and educate tomorrow’s dietitians for the realities they will face.
An incredible Permaculture treasure is hidden away in the heart of Area 25 in Lilongwe. This Health Center is a result of the combined efforts of the Baylor College of Medicine (Texas Children’s Hospital), and Malawi’s Ministry of Health. Certified Permaculture Designer, Afshan Omar, has put several years of hard work into creating an oasis of nutrition, resilience, and sustainability.
The plot is about 5 hectares in size and being used to demonstrate the links between human and environmental health. They have also developed a community center within the healthcare facility where community members can learn about Permaculture techniques such as good soil and water management practices, intercropping in guilds, using zones, and learning about the roles of different components of healthy ecosystems.
Borrowing a description from the Baylor website: “Adjacent to our maternity waiting home is a diverse and vibrant garden which provides healthy fruits and vegetables on a daily basis to the women staying here. Access to nutritious and dependable food is especially important for expectant mothers to ensure successful deliveries and proper infant development. Typical foods the women receive include eggs from our chickens, a healthy bunch of green leafy vegetables, tomatoes, and a selection from the most recent harvest which may include beans, maize, sweet potatoes, carrots, onions, and whatever fruit is in season. From these foods, the women receive key nutrients such as Folic Acid, Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Vitamin B12, Iron, and protein.”
The health center has also done a great job of integrating container gardens, tree nurseries, animals, and fuel-efficient cooking areas:
The whole place is living proof that solutions exist! With a bit of forward thinking and minimal input, Malawi could easily be solving many of its health, environmental, and nutritional problems. This would go a long way towards helping reduce the pressure which is currently placed upon health centers and medicinal supplies throughout the country. Keep up the fantastic work Area 25!
Never Ending Food recently joined hands with the Rain Water Harvesting Association (RHAM) of Malawi to build a new rainwater harvesting tank. The Association recently received a grant to help promote a tank design referred to as a ‘calabash’. This grant allows RHAM to cover half of the costs involved, while the other half is met by the recipient of the tank. This last November (2020), Stacia and I put together a presentation for Lewis Valley Lutheran Church in Wisconsin (United States), who were celebrating their ‘Mission Fest’ Sunday. As part of their fundraising efforts, this church was able to give Never Ending Food a generous donation which not only covered the costs of this tank construction, but also leaves some money remaining which will be put towards current Permaculture training opportunities taking place in our community. (Thanks Lewis Valley!) This ‘calabash’ tank design begins with a foundation of packed sand, which is then covered in a wire mesh and plastered over with cement.
Then, bricks are added to the outside just for supporting the structure. The inside of the tank is also plastered with cement.
The inside of the tank is plastered with cement and then the outside bricks are remove. Once the bricks have been removed, the outside of the tank is also plastered and covered with a cement top.
The result is a very strong rainwater catchment tank that hold approximately 5,000 liters of water once a gutter is attached from the roof of the house to the tank. This tank was constructed at our Permaculture Manager’s house and he was able to use the bricks that were removed to construct a house for his chickens. His family now has free and readily available water for irrigation, washing, and cleaning!
We can’t eat right if we don’t grow right. During this time of a global pandemic, it’s more important than ever to keep our immune systems healthy through good nutrition. Unfortunately, too many people in Malawi are so focused on getting one harvest of maize that they miss the fact that we can be having access to diversified and highly-nutritious foods throughout the year. All these pictures were taken on the same day (Aug. 11). The picture on the left is what a typical maize field looks like this time of the year and, in terms of food, is yielding NOTHING. The pictures on the right were taken at Never Ending Food in Chitedze, Malawi (about 50 meters from the neglected field) and show foods which are being produced without chemical fertilizers or pesticides, with minimal effort, in the middle of Malawi’s dry season, such as: bananas, oranges, white sapote, peppers, tree tomatoes, tangerines, coco yams (taro), lima beans, monkey oranges, rabbits, ducks, monkey bread, hibiscus, figs, plantain, oxalis, sweet potatoes, lemons, amaranth, air potatoes, chickens, and open-pollinated maize being saved for next-year’s planting. Solutions definitely do exist!