De Waal's basic line is that a) famine can be a weapon of war; b) a 'political contract' is needed between people and state to ensure that famine is averted and if experienced, then government is accountable; c) the aid industry often negatively influences humanitarian crises.
The second argument is possibly the take-away idea from the book and certainly the idea is referenced in many other works on this topic. In light of that, if the reader seeks information solely about the 'political contract' idea, then this is the source document, but an outline of this is available in a number of articles and other places. The majority of the book consists of case studies, which exemplify the arguments he makes. Bearing this in mind, students looking for this in isolation would be compelled to read a lot of other material.
However, when taken altogether, it is a well-rounded 'complete' book that sweeps across a broad range of issues; particular attention is paid to Biafra, Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia and the Great Lakes, which each have substantial and detailed chapters, exploring the historical details and their relation to his bigger ideas.
This is a managable text,even for the novice in African current afairs and is written by the co-director of the Africa Rights group,based in London. De Waal contends that the causes of famine are invariably political and avoidable.He is critical of the activities to date of many aid agencies and observes that they have in many cases paradoxically perpetuated the very crises they have been seeking to end. This work has raised many questions for me and is a starting point for further reading on the subject of how aid to developing countries can be best delivered.