Fellows Network

Nirmala Nair

School of Practical Sustainability, Director

Cape Town, South Africa



As a sociologist, and systems inspired permaculture designer, Nirmala’s expertise is in developing strategies for fostering livelihoods that enhance deeper connections with the ethos of life.

Nirmala consults on integrated local sustainability solutions focusing on climate change adaptation, local eco-system regeneration, and rehabilitation of damaged landscapes in South Africa, Zambia, Indonesia and Bhutan.

Nirmala’s most recent project has been in Bhutan developing adaptive micro-climatic designs for sustainable local livelihood systems.  The project was completed in December 2017 with a training manual for climate adaptive designs around changing water scenarios for local farming communities in 40 villages, and training of trainers to carry on the work with local municipalities.

Nirmala set up the School of Practical Sustainability in 2012 mainly as a platform to show case and discuss the problems with mainstream sustainability that is proving to be not so effective locally, often displacing common-sense and local knowledge for top heavy external consultants based capital intensive technocratic solutions. School of Practical Sustainability explores simple low-tech solutions that can sustain diverse and resilient local eco-systems while bridging cultural practices and traditions through unleashing creative community engagements.

Nirmala is a certified permaculture designer trained with Geoff Lawton of Permaculture Research Institute, New South Wales.

Selected Publications
On January 25, 2014, Nirmala wrote an opinion piece, We must work with nature to beat floods, for the Jakarta Post newspaper.

On December 10, 2013, the day of Nelson Mandela’s memorial service in South Africa, Fellow Nirmala published Tears for Nelson Mandela: A Personal Story in the Jakarta Post newspaper.

Selected Video
Nirmala was interviewed by reinsurance / insurance company Swiss Re through their Open Minds project regarding her views on development, change in the world, and engaging in new ways; the interview is entitled A New Way of Seeing the World, July 2013

Updated April 2018