Navyn Salem manufactures success by helping to feed the world's hungry
Her nonprofit Edesia produces Plumpy'nut, a nutritious paste rich in calories and vitamins.
In 2009 Navyn Salem founded Edesia, a nonprofit company based in Providence, R.I., that specializes in producing Plumpy’nut, a high-calorie edible paste made of peanuts that is rich in vitamins and provides nutrition to starving children.Skip to next paragraph
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By way of background, can you talk about why you founded Edesia and how you decided to focus your efforts on producing Plumpy’nut?
Navyn Salem: When I first started, I was certain of one thing: I wanted to have a big impact on children but get there by using a smart business approach. For over a year, I traveled, consulted, and spoke with some of the most amazing development and global health leaders to gather ideas.
Edesia was created with the purpose of creating jobs and contributing to economic development as well as having a social mission that contributes to a global health challenge. We first got started with this model in Tanzania, where 38 percent of the population is stunted due to malnutrition. Most of the raw materials needed to make Plumpy’nut are available locally and products were being imported from France.
We began back in 2007 to develop this project, and our factory there called Power Foods has been operational since December 2010. They can now produce enough Plumpy’nut to fulfill the demand in Tanzania and some of the bordering countries.
In 2009, we realized that there were opportunities in the United States for nonprofit manufacturers of food aid – at the time a rarity. USAID was looking for organizations that could produce ready-to-use foods like Plumpy’nut. We took the risk in deciding to equip the factory to be able to produce four different products that address the entire spectrum of malnutrition, not just the most severe.
We were thrilled when USAID chose Nutributter, a supplement used to prevent malnutrition in children 6-24 months. It was our first order to get the new factory running and was exactly what we were hoping for – the opportunity to make a new product and be part of the distribution on a large scale. Now, 18 months later, we have produced approximately 15 million pounds of all four products for some of the smallest and largest aid organizations in the world.
How can innovations, such as the products produced by Edesia, help change the nature of emergency response, while simultaneously helping stimulate economic development?