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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Teaching How to Farm in Kenya, October 4, 2012
This review is from: The Last Hunger Season: A Year in an African Farm Community on the Brink of Change (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.
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Initial post: Jun 18, 2014 8:50:39 AM PDT
As President of the U.S., perhaps the most influential person in the world, I believe Obama's obligations include giving due concern to the needs of citizens of other countries as well as citizens of the U.S. I think we as Americans also share moral obligations to the world at large, and do in fact advantage ourselves by observing such obligations.
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