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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; First Trade Paper Edition edition (13 Jun. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 161039240X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1610392402
  • Product Dimensions: 20.8 x 14 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 690,888 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"The National""To understand their lives, the author ... takes us deep inside the smallholder's struggle.... Thurow has us hanging on the dramatic tensions affecting all four families: one finds the calf they'd depended on to cover future educational fees has died... Where Thurow is most effective is the interplay he weaves between hunger and policy - or its absence... Readers of "The Last Hunger Season" will find themselves getting caught up in these dilemmas, then breathing a sigh of relief to learn that the farmers Thurow followed in 2011 enjoyed reasonably good yields that year - seven to 20 bags of harvested maize apiece - thanks to One Acre's seeds and training." "Publishers Weekly""Empathetic and eye-opening.... Thurow paints a sobering but ultimately hopeful picture of a continuing food crisis in Africa and some of the things people are doing to mitigate it." "Beliefnet""Awe-inspiring . . . A well-told story of scarcity and hope." "Financial Times""Part of the beauty of this book is that it is not the story of foreign aid workers. Nor indeed does the author, a former "Wall Street Journal" reporter with decades' experience of writing about Africa and agriculture, intrude. Rather it is the tale of villagers such as Wanyama who is grappling with dilemmas familiar to millions of rural and indeed urban Africans: whether to devote scant money to health, education for the children, or food.... This book shows us why history does not have to repeat itself." "Weekender"""The Last Hunger Season" is as much a look at the distortions of agricultural development in Africa as it is a gritty underdog tale of hope and survival. The issue of malnutrition and hunger in children and adults living in impoverished conditions is a vast one. But Thurow does a good job not only touching on those problems but also deeply exploring the trials and tribulations associated with farming in Kenya. His voice is even-keeled, hopeful and respectful, and it's almost impo

About the Author

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. He is, with Scott Kilman, the author of Enough: Why the World's Poorest Starve in an Age of Plenty, which won the Harry Chapin Why Hunger book award and was a finalist for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize and for the New York Public Library Helen Bernstein Book Award. He is a 2009 recipient of the Action Against Hunger Humanitarian Award. He lives near Chicago.

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Format: Paperback
I work in a rural development organization, and sometimes it's easy to get bogged down with frustrations over how slow things can seem, and to question whether you're even making a difference. This book has not only reinvigorated, inspired and humbled me, but it often brought tears to my eyes.

The hardship which the people in the book face, and their courage and strength is really overwhelming at times. It's written in a very accessibly style, so that even though you're aware it's a factual book, you feel that you really get to know the individuals he follows - you live through their many challenges, celebrate their joys, and you're rooting for them to succeed.

I highly recommend the book to anyone.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Not everyone in the world has been lucky and if we went a whole year without rainfall and not a drop from the tap we might feel forgotten. I urge you to read this book and then do whatever you can to help.
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It is an amazing story of such a basic thing for humans, hunger. And how they overcame it.

Well written with empathy. Good detail too.

Everyone in the west should read this book.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 42 reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Case study of how to empower African farmers 29 May 2012
By John Coonrod - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Chicago Council senior fellow and former Wall Street Journal writer Roger Thurow has published a new book that was on sale during the Council's pre-G8 event.

I strongly recommend it. Thurow follows the lives of farm families in Western Kenya throughout the year 2011 as they struggle to overcome hunger. Their productivity is being greatly enhanced through the "One Acre Fund" (<...>) - a social enterprise founded by Andrew Youn, an American son of Korean immigrant parents that now serves 50,000 families.

Youn has been called the "Paul Farmer of Agriculture" - an individual of unyielding persistence as he and his team overcome logistical barriers to deliver improved seeds and fertilizer (on credit), training and farm insurance to farmers throughout his area.

Those working in African development will recognize much of what One Acre Fund does in Kenya: awakening people to a new possibility, training local facilitators, providing skills in row-planting and microdose fertilizer. Many will also recognize that - as impoverished as the Kenyan villages are - farmers have a profound commitment to securing quality secondary education for their children as their highest aspiration.

Like Steinbeck, Thurow follows the experiences of four families as they live through the major phases of the cropping year: the land preparation, the planting, the "hunger season," the harvest, and the second planting. He also neatly folds in the historic events unfolding beyond the villages - the famine in Northern Kenya receiving foreign food aid even as Western Kenya has a bumper harvest it cannot sell, Tony Hall fasting to force Congress to not cut food security funding, and the G8 in Paris giving little priority to food security as the global recession deepens.

Thurow writes in a clear, journalistic, page-turning style. This is the kind of book you will want to give to your friends who have had no real exposure to the realities of life in rural Africa, and the heartbreaking choices families must constantly make between buying food or paying school fees or paying for malaria medications.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Moving and informative on every page 21 May 2012
By BigRedPencil - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Global hunger is a tough story to tell. It's complicated, depressing at times and lacks the sort of glitz and celebrity that editors and readers seem to prize these days. So it's great to see a journalist of Roger Thurow's caliber and skill step up to tell the important story of global hunger -- why it exists, how it can be solved and why we can never give up trying. The Last Hunger season chronicles the lives and work of small farmers in Kenya and the steps they take, with the help of an innovative American nonprofit, to grow more food, feed their families three meals a day year-round and make better lives for their children. A natural storyteller, Thurow infuses his book with memorable characters, strong drama and novelistic pacing. You will come away from reading this book with greater knowledge about hunger and solutions, as well as utter awe for the perseverance and resourceful of people who battle tremendous challenges in order to give their children the lives and opportunities that we hope for our own children.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Teaching How to Farm in Kenya 5 Oct. 2012
By L. Wagner - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Being from the farm, I found Roger Thurow's book, The Last Hunger Season, to be a challenge for every human being to help out their `neighbor' to eliminate hunger. In our world of plenty, no one should be going hungry or be starving to death. Yet as our world grows in population, there is a need to increase productivity worldwide.

Through the brain-child operation, One Acre Fund, administered by Andrew Youn, a social entrepreneur who was earning his MBA at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, Kenya's smallholder farmers were taught how to manage and grow bigger and better crops to sustain them through the hunger season. Though Andrew wasn't a farmer, he did know how to manage. In his mind, "The existence of hungry farmers is completely crazy. It's mind-boggling. A hunger season shouldn't exist." I totally agree. It's unbelievable, yet it was happening.

This book is the story of four smallholder farmers that Roger Thurow followed for a year, throughout all the different seasons of farming. It started out as a picture of malnourished children, backbreaking manual labor (mostly done by the women), meager provisions from the crops, the stress of financial concerns for schooling their children, and the mountainous hopelessness of going through the wanjala-a hunger season that could stretch from one month to nine, depending on the year.

With the help of One Acre Fund, they were hoping to overcome the oppressive poverty and hunger. As a former farm girl, it was a thrilling and educational read to see how all the monumental red tape and access to good seed was a constant concern and how One Acre Fund was willing to stay the course, working out problems and issues that arose. Others had tried, failed and left.

Thurow's book is a heart-wrenching book of failed procedures, disease ravaged areas, and starvation while surplus food was only miles away. But as the subtitle suggests, these smallholder farmers were on the brink of change. Hope abounded, but the setbacks cut deep at times. They learned by trial and error.

The challenges of the seed providers were astronomical. What would work in one area of Kenya didn't in another because of the weather patterns. I found this so intriguing and frustrating all at the same time. It takes many varieties of seeds to work in the multiple areas.

I truly enjoyed Thurow's organized reporting for the book. He lays out the different seasons as described by the Kenyans, helping you to comprehend the enormity of the situation. But you don't have to come from a farm to be concerned with the issues of hunger and poor farm management. Just imagine your own family going through starvation months, and you can empathize with these farmers and be willing to be involved in your own way.

I applaud the Obama administration in their efforts to help these Kenyan smallholder farmers, where Obama's father grew up. But President Obama's desire to go down in history for these achievements should not take precedence over the people of the United States, as this is the country he is President of. The same goes to China's willingness to provide great financial assistance to Kenya's farmers, but they ignore the Dalits in their own backyard. I also believe Kenya's government should be held more accountable to providing assistance to their people instead of holding on to their wealth and ignoring their own fellow countrymen, leaving them for other countries to help. They are issues that were overlooked in the book that I felt should have been addressed. I also felt the book was politically polarizing instead or working with both sides to come to an agreement. I find that the opposition for an agenda has many sides, which didn't seem to be addressed or considered.

Barring my concerns, this is an insightful, excellent read to understand the plight of starving farmers-to spur others to get involved and help their `neighbors.'

This book was provided by Diane Morrow of the B & B Media Group in exchange for my honest review. No monetary compensation was exchanged.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
eye opening tear jerker! 2 July 2012
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
In the book, The Last Hunger Season by Roger Thurow, we are taken on a journey through the lives of some farmers in Kenya, Africa.

Each one of these farmers were small scale farmers who could barely grow enough crops to survive each season, and many times went without food. In our modern daily lives in richer countries, we cannot fathom really having to decide whether to make a school tuition payment of approx USD of $237 or eating that month. These farmers needed help, and change.

Through One Acre Fund, they are able to get new seeds, fertilizer, and most of all, knowledge of planting, growing and harvesting. They are able to grow more crops, and grow more successfully, providing them the ability to better feed themselves and their families. There are still hurdles to climb over, such as being able to save maize to sell when the prices go up, and make some cash to cover school payments, or to buy an animal. Of course, with the rainy season, there are mosquitos and malaria and medicines will be needed. Having something to sell for money for medicines means the difference between life and death to these people.

This book is an eye opener to seeing beyond our own selfish desires and allowing us to feel others pain. Charting these lives from pure deathly poverty and the fight to survive will show you the heart and faith of the people of Kenya.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Rare Access to Lives of Rural Farmers but Don't Expect a Policy Discussion 25 May 2014
By Keyon Dupre - Published on
Format: Paperback
The strength of this book is the rare access the author gets to the lives of the rural poor. Beyond just recounting the challenges of the farmers, the author is able to present a picture of the thoughts and worries they face each day. The farmers are humanized, rather than just treated as victims.

The weakness is that the book doesn't get much beyond the basics of the farmer's lives. One Acre Fund, an NGO the farmers work with, is presented as the answer to every prayer. Questions like, "why is the Kenyan government not paying for this intervention," "is One Acre Fund's NGO approach inhibiting private sector led efforts," and "can One Acre Fund really scale to a meaningful level?" are not addressed. Also, there are parallels drawn between the local farmers and struggles about the foreign aid budget in the US Congress, but the connection is barely drawn. Toward the end we learn that One Acre Fund receives some funding from the US government, but it's a few million dollars, which is relatively minor. How effective is the rest of the US government's one billion dollar "Feed the Future" budget.

Despite a superficial treatment of larger policy questions, the book is worth the read to get a better sense of the day-to-day concerns of some of the poorest people in the world.

One additional note, the title seems to be a bit wishful thinking at this point. It would be more accurate to put a question mark at the end of it.
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