evidence-based blog of Filippo Dibari

Innovation to Fight Hunger: The Case of Plumpy’nut

In Under-nutrition on July 31, 2012 at 5:26 pm

by José Guimón* and Pablo Guimón** (2010)

UAM-Accenture Working Papers – ISSN: 2172-8143

(download the entire text)


A simple invention can at times prove extremely useful. This is the case with Plumpy‟nut, a variety of ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) conceived in 1999 that  is shaping a new regime for emergency interventions to alleviate child malnutrition. This paper applies concepts from the innovation systems literature into the analysis of  Plumpy‟nut with the aim of identifying the forces driving its successful diffusion as an innovation. Special attention is paid to three features that define the diffusion process: 1) shifting from inpatient to outpatient treatment, 2) building networks through licences,  franchises and partnerships, and 3) exploring further varieties of application. We combine the theoretical discussion with insights from field research in Ethiopia, including personal interviews with relevant parties and direct observation of how Plumpy‟nut works in practice. The ultimate objectives of this technology assessment exercise are to better understand the innovation journey of Plumpy‟nut and to identify possible opportunities for policy intervention.

Keywords: food crises; malnutrition; therapeutic food; technology diffusion; technological regimes; Ethiopia

Acknowledgements: An earlier draft of this paper was presented at the Globelics International Conference 2009 organized by CRES and UNU-MERIT (Senegal, October 6-8, 2009).

* Departamento de Estructura Económica y Economía del Desarrollo. Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. Ctra. de Colmenar km. 15, 28049 Madrid. E-mail: jose.guimon@uam.es

** El País Semanal. El País. Miguel Yuste 40, 28037 Madrid. E-mail: pguimon@elpais.es

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