Home > CTP Lecture Series: Roger Thurow
CTP Lecture Series: Roger Thurow
Date: September 18, 2013
Location: Vanderbilt University Divinity School
Biography (scroll to the bottom to register)
Senior Fellow, Global Agriculture and Food Policy
The Chicago Council on Global Affairs
Roger Thurow joined The Chicago Council on Global Affairs as senior fellow for global agriculture and food policy in January 2010 after three decades at The Wall Street Journal. For 20 years, he served as a Journal foreign correspondent, based in Europe and Africa. His coverage of global affairs spanned the Cold War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the release of Nelson Mandela, the end of apartheid, the wars in the former Yugoslavia and the humanitarian crises of the first decade of this century – along with 10 Olympic Games.
In 2003, he and Journal colleague Scott Kilman wrote a series of stories on famine in Africa that was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in International Reporting. Their reporting on humanitarian and development issues was also honored by the United Nations. Thurow and Kilman are authors of the book, ENOUGH: Why the World’s Poorest Starve in an Age of Plenty.
In 2009, they were awarded Action Against Hunger’s Humanitarian Award. They also received the 2009 Harry Chapin Why Hunger book award.
In May 2012, Thurow published his second book, The Last Hunger Season: A Year in an African Farm Community on the Brink of Change. He is currently working on his third book due sometime next year.
About The Last Hunger Season
At 4:00 am, Leonida Wanyama lit a lantern in her house made of sticks and mud. She was up long before the sun to begin her farm work, as usual. But this would be no ordinary day, this second Friday of the new year. This was the day Leonida and a group of smallholder farmers in western Kenya would begin their exodus, as she said, “from misery to Canaan,” the land of milk and honey.
Africa’s smallholder farmers, most of whom are women, know misery. They toil in a time warp, living and working essentially as their forebears did a century ago. With tired seeds, meager soil nutrition, primitive storage facilities, wretched roads, and no capital or credit, they harvest less than one-quarter the yields of Western farmers. The romantic ideal of African farmers––rural villagers in touch with nature, tending bucolic fields––is in reality a horror scene of malnourished children, backbreaking manual work, and profound hopelessness. Growing food is their driving preoccupation, and still they don’t have enough to feed their families throughout the year. The wanjala––the annual hunger season that can stretch from one month to as many as eight or nine––abides.
But in January 2011, Leonida and her neighbors came together and took the enormous risk of trying to change their lives. Award-winning author and world hunger activist Roger Thurow spent a year with four of them––Leonida Wanyama, Rasoa Wasike, Francis Mamati, and Zipporah Biketi––to intimately chronicle their efforts. In The Last Hunger Season, he illuminates the profound challenges these farmers and their families face, and follows them through the seasons to see whether, with a little bit of help from a new social enterprise organization called One Acre Fund, they might transcend lives of dire poverty and hunger.
The daily dramas of the farmers’ lives unfold against the backdrop of a looming global challenge: to feed a growing population, world food production must nearly double by 2050. If these farmers succeed, so might we all.
Roger's Current Project
Roger's current project is a moveable feast of storytelling on the critical importance of good nutrition during the 1,000 Days -- the time from when a woman becomes pregnant to the second birthday of her child. He is following women and their children through the 1,000 Days in four corners of the world: Uganda, India, Guatemala and the U.S. (Chicago). Any malnutrition of mother or child during this period leads to underdevelopment and stunting, which afflicts 26% of the children in the world. Roger's reporting is focusing on innovative initiatives to improve mother and infant nutrition.