"The Peanut Solution"
Posted on Sep 3, 2010
Nourimanba. It’s a therapeutic, highly nutritional food made of peanuts locally grown and processed in Haiti. It’s also one of PIH’s primary tools for fighting childhood malnutrition.
The September 5 edition of The New York Times Magazine features PIH’s production and use of Nourimanba in an article about peanut-based therapeutic foods for treating malnutrition in resource-poor settings around the world. “The Peanut Solution,” by Andrew Rice, which is available online now and on newsstands on Sunday, focuses on the debate surrounding the production and use of Plumpy’nut (which is the most well-known and widely-used of these peanut products, in part because its producer holds a multi-country patent), while also documenting the product’s ability to save people’s lives.
Unlike Plumpy’nut, PIH’s Nourimanba is produced locally in Haiti, which is a country where the Plumpy’nut patent is not registered. “Partners in Health harvests peanuts from a 30-acre farm or buys them from a cooperative of 200 smallholders,” writes Rice. “It’s planning to build a larger factory, but for now the nuts are taken to the main hospital in Cange, where women sort them in straw baskets, roast them over an outside gas burner, run them through a hand grinder and mix all the ingredients into a paste that is poured into reusable plastic canisters.” Keeping with its goal of creating sustainable strategies, Partners In Health employs local farmers and workers to grow and manufacture a product that offers life-saving nutrition to people living in those same communities.
Yet, Nourimanba (and similar products) is not a silver bullet for childhood malnutrition. “Haiti’s endemic problem of malnutrition wasn’t something you could solve with peanuts,” writes Rice. Fully addressing malnutrition—and many other diseases that disproportionately affect the poor—means treating the root cause of the condition: poverty. Which is why PIH’s comprehensive approach to health care also provides clean water, shelter, education, and economic opportunities. For example, the Family Assistance Program provides the poorest families—typically those with children in PIH’s pediatric nutrition program—with tools, seeds, training, livestock, technical support, and on-going accompaniment to empower them to produce enough food to prevent their children from re-entering the pediatric nutrition program.