Nirmala Nair

NirmalaMy work in the field of sustainable local development began in the 70’s when I joined Barefoot College (Tilonia) in Rajasthan, India. Early 80’s I left India to study at the Institute of Social Studies, in The Netherlands. Eventually ending up in Cape Town South Africa in 1992 where I live currently. My work has found its way to remote places in Indonesia, Bhutan and to a much lesser extent in South Africa.

In 2001 I came across Fritjof Capra’s article on ZERI (Hidden Connections) which led me to contact Prof. Gunter Pauli eventually getting trained as a certified ZERI practitioner from New Mexico.

During my early years with ZERI, I had the good fortune to be trained in basic biomimicry modules by Janine Benyus and spend time with her in Japan during the ZERI conference when biomimicry was just coming into being. Inspired by Janine’s work, I encouraged a young friend of mine, a chemical engineer, Claire Janisch, to apply for biomimicry training that Janine was conducting from Montana. We intended to work together because of the great theoretical overlap between ZERI and biomimicry. However, I eventually felt limited by both ZERI and biomimicry for the kind of explorations of my local sustainability work and closed down operations of ZERI-Southern Africa, which I had set up in 2003.


Introducing a new module on Resilient designs. With the 4th year design students of Duta Wacana University, Yogjakarta, Indonesia 2013

I subsequently set up School of Practical Sustainability in 2012. The key thrust of the school will be in shaping and mentoring young people to adopt a critical approach to mainstream globalized solutions for localized problems.

My urban food garden

My urban food garden

Recently the focus of my work has shifted to using permaculture to work on climate change related resiliency and local eco-system regeneration, especially on soil and water as well as edible urban greening programs. Soon I will complete my training with Geoff Lawton of Permaculture Research Institute, NSW, Australia

If you resonate to my life’s work feel free to contact me.