Book Review: The Last Hunger Season

13 Jul

Africa’s small farmers, who comprise two-thirds of its population, toil in a time warp, living and working essentially as they did in the 1930s. Without mechanized equipment, fertilizer, or irrigation; using primitive storage facilities, roads, and markets; lacking capital, credit, and insurance; they harvest only one-quarter the yields of Western farmers, half of which spoil before getting to market. But in 2011 one group of farmers in Kenya came together to try to change their odds for success—and their families’ futures. Roger Thurow spent a year following their progress.

In The Last Hunger Season, the intimate dramas of the farmers’ lives unfold amidst growing awareness that to feed the world’s growing population, food production must double by 2050. How will the farmers, Africa, and a hungrier world deal with issues of water usage, land ownership, foreign investment, corruption, GMO’s, the changing role of women, and the politics of foreign aid?




Roger Thurow is a senior fellow for global agriculture and food policy at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. He was for thirty years a reporter at The Wall Street Journal. His first book, Enough: Why the World’s Poorest Still Starve in an Age of Plenty, written with Scott Kilman, won the Harry Chapin Why Hunger book award and was a finalist for both the Dayton Literary Peace Prize and the New York Public Library Helen Bernstein Book Award. He is a 2009 recipient of the Action Against Hunger Humanitarian Award. He lives in Chicago.

My Impressions:

In America, not having any food in the house often means that there is plenty to eat, just not what you are hungry for.  But in Kenya, where one is often named for the season of year in which one was born, there are too many children named Wanjala — the hunger season.  Even among farmers, hunger and its accompanying problems is common.  The Last Hunger Season details one year in the life of 4 farmers involved in One Acre Fund, founded by American Andrew Youn.  One Acre Fund seeks to improve farming techniques through education, loans and better seeds.  It is not another  food aid agency; it seeks to improve the lives of farmers by making them part of the solution.

The Last Hunger Season is an eye-opening book.  Hunger and the day to day struggle to have enough to eat is something foreign to most of us in the Western world.  The idea that farmers go through a hunger season, watching their children become more and more listless and susceptible to disease seems incomprehensible.  While I did not always agree with the political assessments of the author, I found the book a great look into the heart of the famine problem in Africa.  I am also impressed with One Acre Fund’s commitment to educate and empower the farmers rather than perpetuate the cycle of handouts and need.

The featured farmers and their families are very real.  I hurt during their losses and rejoiced with them in their victories.  The book puts a face and a heart on the problems seen in 30 second commercial clips.  These farmers are not so different from you and me — they want more for their children.  They are committed to hard work, persistence and perseverance.  And they get on their knees, raise their hands and praise God for what He has done, what He’s doing and what He will do. I recommend The Last Hunger Season to anyone who wants an accurate look at the plight of farmers in the developing world and a wonderful project that can be the solution to the problem.


(I received The Last Hunger Season from B&B Media in exchange for a review. The opinions expressed are mine alone.)

One Response to “Book Review: The Last Hunger Season”


  1. Book Review: The Last Hunger Season « BY THE BOOK | Pulplit Magazine - July 13, 2012

    […] Book Review: The Last Hunger Season « BY THE BOOK This entry was posted in Books and tagged 1930s, hunger, its-population, mechanized-equipment, […]

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