Our world is increasingly becoming a global world. Thanks to the internet and the daily news on TV, we know what is happening on the other side of the globe. Yet knowing about those events doesn’t mean they impact us—or that we do anything about them.
When I saw the press release about Roger Thurow’s new book The Last Hunger Season: A Year in an African Farm Community on the Brink of Change, I almost deleted it. Thurow writes about about Africa. A faraway continent. Why should I read that?
Then I stopped myself. It’s easy to live in my little cocoon here–getting my news via Yahoo! updates and what shows up in my friends’ Facebook news feeds. Starving farmers in Africa don’t really impact me, because what can I do to help them? I’m just a mom, a university student. Yet ignoring the problem doesn’t make it go away. So I requested Thurow’s book as a personal challenge to myself to get my head out of the sand.
Roger Thurow is a journalist who has wrote for the Wall Street Journal for thirty years. He is the author of Enough: Why the World’s Poorest Starve in an Age of Plenty. In The Last Hunger Season, he chronicles the story of a year in the life of four farmers in Africa—four farmers trying to break the cycle of poverty and hunger seasons for their families.
I was shocked that these farmers are living the way they are in today’s world. They have cell phones, but not enough to eat. They must choose between paying for schooling for their children or buying medication to treat malaria. While farmers in North America ride some of the biggest tractors you’ve ever seen–and don’t even have to steer those tractors anymore thanks to GPS, farmers in Kenya are still hacking at the ground with hoes, hiring the local team of oxen, harvesting with scythes. Foreign food is being imported for starving Kenyans in one part of the country, while Kenyan farmers on the other side of the country are selling their corn for dirt cheap prices because they can’t store it—it will be destroyed by bugs or mold.
Much of the book talks about One Acre Fund, an innovative non-profit organization that is equipping farmers with new seeds, fertilizer, and new farming practices so that they can grow enough corn to feed their families—and maybe their neighbours too. Simple things, like how the farmers plant their seeds and having access to good seeds and fertilizer, may double the yield of their small, one-acre fields. Thurow also mentioned other organizations that are working to help these farmers.
Thurow writes from an American perspective, often delving into U.S. politics and how those affect farmers in Kenya—particularly when Obama came to power and promised to help feed the hungry around the world and then when other politicians tried to slash foreign aid in order to reduce the U.S. budget.
Faith also plays an important role in the lives of most of these farmers. Their meetings take place in their local churches and they pray as they put the seed in the ground, watch it grow, prepare to harvest. In one area of Kenya, the local Catholic diocese is involved in helping the farmers; in other parts of the country, other Christian groups are reaching out with the tools and information to help these farmers. To me, it was deeply inspiring to see the faith these farmers demonstrate despite all the hardships they’ve faced in their lives.
While The Last Hunger Season was heart-breaking to read in the first few chapters, to hear how hard is for these Kenyan farmers, it turned into a story of triumph by the end. In just a year, a few small things made a huge difference for these four Kenyans and their communities. Just a little bit of help ended the cycle of hunger seasons. Thurow shows us the day-to-day lives of these four farmers and how a better harvest can change their lives, but he also shows us the bigger picture—what is happening in Kenya and in other countries around the world that affects these farmers’ lives.
So what can I do now to help farmers in Kenya? I can pray. I can help spread the word about their needs. I can write to my political representative about supporting foreign aid to Kenya. I can support organizations like One Acre, who are on the ground in Kenya and making a difference in Kenyans’ lives.
What will you do?
This book was provided for review courtesy of The B&B Media Group.