Why Peanut Butter Forges a Path to Food Security

French peanut-butter-maker Nutriset has made a $5.8 million commitment to help curb the ever-growing tide of "severe acute malnutrition" in Africa's Sahel region. Nutriset is not simply writing a check or providing $5.8 million worth of its fortified peanut butter, called Plumpy'Nut, to the denizens of this mid-African region. The company is also investing in local manufacturers of the food, which is fortified with vitamins and minerals to help treat severe malnutrition. Meaning, they are attacking two social issues in one $5.8 million fell swoop — economic development and health.

Before moving on, I feel there are a few things you should know: First, Nutriset's current investment in the Sahel region of Africa isn't a new trend for the French company. Since 2005, the company has invested over $10 million to local Plumpy'Nut manufacturers, including those in the Sahel Africa region.

Second, the Sahel Africa region is a narrow swath of land running from the Indian Ocean coastline to the Atlantic coastline. Countries include Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, Chad, Niger, Nigeria, Mauritania, Burkina, and Senegal.

Finally, this region of Africa is a experiencing a permanent food crisis with more than 18 million — nearly half of the region's inhabitants — affected. Over 1 million children are currently at risk of severe malnutrition.

Nutriset's $5.8 million commitment will be spread over two years, with $2.6 million dispersed in 2012 and the remaining $3.2 million in 2013. These funds will help to grow the local economies in which the manufacturing plants are located, by employing local labor and purchasing local raw materials. The company also employs sustainable production systems, especially important in a region in which natural resources have been all but decimated by drought and conflict. The increasing cost of food — "price shock" — is one of the contributing factors to the rise in malnutrition in the region.

Nutriset's goal is to help these countries develop economic independence, eventually becoming nutritionally autonomous.