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.
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The media plays such an important role here. If the story had made it to the headlines sooner, perhaps funds would have followed sooner, and we would not be discussing the exorbitant cost of airlifting supplies to Kenya in a desperate last-minute effort.Skip to next paragraph
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You start your reflection by saying that “our success is dependent on failure, failure on a grand scale somewhere else in the world.” How do you measure Edesia’s success?
We measure our success by the number of children who receive the food and nutrition they need. Although this is not easy or straightforward, we work every day to make it happen.
We are successful when we supply a high-quality product at the best possible cost. We are successful when we are running our production efficiently. We are successful when the distribution network is communicating and sharing best practices.
We have the opportunity to impact all of those. So when you know that all the quality standards are met, when production runs as smoothly and as efficiently as possible, and when our partners get Plumpy’nut into the hands of children, then we count ourselves successful, even if it reaches just one child.
The task is far from done but we are proud to play our small role.
In your little time as the executive director of Edesia what have you learned about the role of emergency aid groups in dealing with situations like the one taking place in the Horn of Africa, and what have you seen as Edesia’s greatest challenge?
The biggest problem is funding. Even today, only a month ago we had to cut back our staff for lack of funding. We know that every year there is significant need for products like Plumpy’nut, and that it is cheaper to respond sooner. But we “wait around” until there is a crisis. By then it is already too late for so many.
The emergency aid groups I have seen in operation on the ground like Save the Children and Word Food Program do amazing work – they are smart, organized, dedicated, and risk their own lives every day in order to reach the people who so desperately need our help.
Graham Salinger is a research intern for the Nourishing the Planet project.
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