It is called the Hunger Season, and in Africa, it is defined as the time when food from the last harvest runs out until the next harvest is ready. It is a season with no set boundaries or specifics. It may last one month or as many as nine. Each year, countless smallholder farmers in Africa must endure this onerous period that is ironically forced into repetitive cycles of hunger, not by drought or corruption, but by the growing season itself.
In his latest book, The Last Hunger Season: A Year in an African Farm Community On the Brink of Change (Public Affairs Books, May 29, 2012) award-winning author and global hunger activist Roger Thurow explores this annual plight, chronicling the profound challenges faced by four Kenyan farmers from January through December 2011 as they endeavor to escape the poverty to which time-worn and traditional planting methods have held them bound. With the assistance of a social enterprise called One Acre Fund that offers financing for quality seeds, fertilizers, tools and training, the farmers view the year as an exodus that will lift them from the Egypt of misery into the Canaan land of milk and honey.
Oddly enough, the plight of Africa’s hungry is a topic Thurow never considered until a few short years ago. For the bulk of his writing career, he was a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, two thirds of that time spent as a foreign correspondent in Europe and Africa. “Up until about ten years ago,” he explains, “I hadn’t really done much reporting on hunger issues. Hunger was a kind of background noise or scenery until the Ethiopian famine in 2003. On my first day in Ethiopia, I was meeting with the World Food Program to get background information and was given a piece of advice – a warning of sorts – that changed my life. I was told that ‘looking into the eyes of someone dying of hunger becomes a disease of the soul.’”
The next day, as Thurow entered into the hunger zone for the first time and began looking into the eyes of those who were dying, the real meaning of that warning hit home. “I began to ask questions, wanting to know why this was happening ––how this was happening — in the twenty-first century,” he recalls, “and suddenly all other stories began paling in comparison. It wasn’t just what I was seeing all around me, but the things and the beliefs I had grown up with, the memories from my childhood when I was taught that Jesus expected us to feed the hungry and care for the afflicted.
To learn more about The Last Hunger Season and the documentary film it inspired, please visit http://www.WeHaveDecided.org., Thurow’s blog http://GlobalFoodForThought.typepad.com or www.TheLastHungerSeason.com
For interviews and review copies contact Diane Morrow.