Traveling in her father’s native Tanzania brought home the enormity of the crisis caused by world hunger for Edesia Inc. Executive Director Navyn Salem. It was enough to convince the Barrington resident, whose professional experience was in advertising, to embark on a new career making peanut-based nutritional pastes for children.
With support from her husband, Paul Salem, an executive at Providence Equity Partners, Salem founded Edesia, a nonprofit manufacturer of Plumpy’nut, a nutritional paste patented by French firm Nutriset. After setting up a factory in Tanzania, Edesia agreed to become Nutriset’s sole partner in the United States.
By producing Plumpy’nut in Providence, Edesia can sell to the government agency USAID, which only distributes American-made products.
Last month, Edesia signed a 25-yearlease on a 10-acre parcel in the Quonset Business Park in North Kingstown, where the organization intends to build an 85,000-square-foot factory.
PBN: Why is Edesia moving?
SALEM: We are currently unable to answer the demand of our customers and there are so many high-level humanitarian crises around the world, due to a lot of civil unrest – such as Syria, the Central African Republic and South Sudan. Our customers, the international aid organizations, are requesting more and more and, because it is an emergency, we need turnaround time. It is really a matter of life and death.
PBN: How much will the new factory increase your capacity?
SALEM: We should be able to reach 2 million malnourished children. Right now we reach around 600,000 annually.
PBN: I assume a lot of your workers live in Providence now, is it tough to leave for them?