The Last Hunger Season

Africa’s small farmers, who comprise two-thirds of its population, toil in a time warp, living and working essentially as they did in the 1930s. Without mechanized equipment, fertilizer, or irrigation; using primitive storage facilities, roads, and markets; lacking capital, credit, and insurance; they harvest only one-quarter the yields of Western farmers, half of which spoil before getting to market. But in 2011 one group of farmers in Kenya came together to try to change their odds for success—and their families’ futures. Roger Thurow spent a year following their progress.

In The Last Hunger Season, the intimate dramas of the farmers’ lives unfold amidst growing awareness that to feed the world’s growing population, food production must double by 2050. How will the farmers, Africa, and a hungrier world deal with issues of water usage, land ownership, foreign investment, corruption, GMO’s, the changing role of women, and the politics of foreign aid?

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The Last Hunger Season tells the story of four farmers in western Kenya—Leonida Wanyama, Rasoa Wasike, Zipporah Biketi, and Francis Wanjala—and their efforts to put an end to the hunger season. Learn more about their lives, families, and struggles and aspirations


This section features The Last Hunger Season documentary film trailer by Courter Films & Associates, video clips featuring smallholder farmers in Kenya, and Roger Thurow’s book discussion videos and speeches.


Media Coverage

See media coverage and interviews with Roger Thurow about his book, The Last Hunger Season: A Year in an African Farm Community on the Brink of Change.


Zipporah Biketi

Zipporah Biketi is a 31 year old mother of four from the village of Kabuchai in western Kenya, where she lives with her husband, Sanet, who is in the animal trading business.

Francis Mamati

Francis Mamati is a 54 year old maize farmer from the village of Kabuchai in western Kenya, where he lives with his wife Mary and their nine children. His main goal is educating his children to lift them from poverty.

Leonida Wanyama

Leonida Wanyama is a 43 year old farmer and village elder from the Lutacho village in western Kenya. Her husband, Peter, was injured in a traffic accident many years ago; thus, she completely supports her seven children with food and education.

Rasoa Wasike

Rasoa Wasike is a 31 year old mother of three young boys from the village of Kabuchai in western Kenya. She is a small-holder farmer and an upcoming entrepreneur as she invested in a calf to eventually pay for her son’s education.



The Last Hunger Season Multi-Part Series


Documentary Film Trailer by Courter Films & Associates


The Last Hunger Season – Faith Video Series by One Campaign


Book Discussions and Speeches

Roger Thurow’s TedxChange at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation


The Last Hunger Season Book Discussion at the Center for Strategic and International Studies


Setting the Stage: One Billion Hungry. Can we Feed the World Sustainably?


Media Coverage


Take Note: Hunger in an Age of Plenty
Roger Thurow’s Interview with WPSU’s Kate Lao Shaffner, February 2014

  Roger Thurow’s Interview with Tom Paulson at Humanosphere, April 2013


Book Reviews

The Last Hunger Season: When Will It Come?, Bread for the World, May 29, 2013

The Last Hunger Season: Study Guide and Quotes, Opportunity International, May 2013

The Last Hunger Season, One Billion Hungry, April 26, 2013

One Book One Northwestern: Last Hunger Season, Northwestern University, April 8, 2013

University Announces hoice for Next One Book One Northwestern, The Daily Northwestern, April 8, 2013

Out of Africa, Harvard Business Review, November 2012

The Last Hunger Season: A Year in an African Farm Community on the Brink of Change By Roger Thurow, Washington Post, September 7, 2012

The Last Hunger Season: A Year in an African Farm Community on the Brink of Change, Philanthropy News Digest, November 29, 2012

The Last Hunger Season, Acumen, August 8, 2012

The Last Hunger Season, Financial Times, July 22, 2012

The Last Hunger Season: How an NGO is Raising African Crop Yields, The National, May 26, 2012

The Last Hunger Season, USGLC, May 18, 2012


| By Roger Thurow

African Farmers: Surviving or Thriving?

It is one of Africa’s cruelest ironies that as the planting season begins, as it is now across much of the continent, so does the hunger season. The food stocks from the previous harvest are running low and it will be several months before the next harvest comes in. Whatever food remains in the household is rationed: portions shrink, meals are skipped, malnutrition rises.

| By Roger Thurow

Relief to Resilience

There is little mail service in rural Africa, so the smallholder farmers there wouldn’t have received last week’s annual letter of U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Rajiv Shah.  But they certainly would welcome his words.

| By Roger Thurow

Developments at the Development Bank

I’m surprised that “surprise” is a word being used to describe President Obama’s nomination of Jim Yong Kim to head the World Bank.  Surprise, perhaps, over the specific name, because Dr. Kim hadn’t figured prominently in the speculation of who would replace current World Bank president Robert Zoellick.

| By Roger Thurow

The Rising Power of Women Farmers

The most common tool in African agriculture is also the most impractical.  Or at least it appears to be.  It is the hoe, which is used for plowing, planting, weeding and harvesting.  It is a simple tool that produces the majority of the continent’s food, and yet it has remained unchanged over the centuries, defying any technological advance.

| By Roger Thurow

Looking Back, Moving Forward

At President Obama’s first international summit, the G8 meeting in L’Aquila, Italy in July 2009, he rallied his fellow rich world leaders to commit to investing $22 billion to conquer global hunger through agricultural development.  He spoke passionately about both the moral obligation and the global security imperative of ending hunger and the despair and hopelessness such deep poverty breeds.

| By Roger Thurow

Mr. Xi Goes to Iowa

Those were interesting photos from the dusty archives that appeared in various newspapers and TV reports this week, pictures of a visitor from China inspecting hogs, vegetable farms and grain processing facilities in Iowa back in 1985.  It became downright fascinating when it turned out that visitor, Xi Jinping, was now returning to the U.S., and to Iowa, as the vice president of China.  Oh, and he is presumed to be China’s next president.

| By Roger Thurow

Global Collaboration

At the foot of Mount Kenya, a patch of maize stalks are defying the odds.  They are standing tall and robust in a trial field where the soil had been intentionally depleted of nitrogen, one of the essential nutrients for maize.

| By Roger Thurow

Learning by Doing

Learning by doing is the philosophy of the Pan-American agricultural school known as Zamorano in Honduras.  Students come to class every day dressed in their uniform of blue jeans and blue shirt.  They come to work, not just to study; more often than not, their classrooms are the fields and the food production plants on campus.  They plant seeds and pull weeds and milk cows and nurture fish and make ice cream and inseminate queen bees.

| By Roger Thurow


A not so funny thing happened on the way to the G20 meeting in Cannes last week.

| By Roger Thurow

The Right Vote

We’ll keep this short:

“Vote for the Appropriations Committee recommendation for foreign operations and against any cuts that would hurt hungry and poor people.”

| By Roger Thurow

Girls Grow

The teenagers of rural western Kenya I have met during the past year have no shortage of ambition.  Especially the girls.  They want to be doctors and nurses and teachers and lawyers and pilots.




Digital Preview of The First 1,000 Days

In his new book, The First 1,000 Days, Council senior fellow Roger Thurow illuminates the 1,000 Days initiative to end early childhood malnutrition through the compelling stories of new mothers in Uganda, India, Guatemala, and Chicago. Get a first-look at photos and stories from the book in this new web interactive.

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» Order your copy of the book.


The First 1,000 Days

Roger Thurow’s book will tell the story of the vital importance of proper nutrition and health care in the 1,000 days window from the beginning of a woman’s pregnancy to her child’s second birthday.

The 1,000 days period is the crucial period of development, when malnutrition can have severe life-long impacts on the individual, the family and society as a whole. Nutritional deficiencies that occur during this time are often overlooked, resulting in a hidden hunger. It is a problem of great human and economic dimensions, impacting rich and poor countries alike.

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The Last Hunger Season

In The Last Hunger Season, the intimate dramas of the farmers' lives unfold amidst growing awareness that to feed the world's growing population, food production must double by 2050. How will the farmers, Africa, and a hungrier world deal with issues of water usage, land ownership, foreign investment, corruption, GMO's, the changing role of women, and the politics of foreign aid?

Learn more »


Roger Thurow and Scott Kilman, award-winning writers on Africa, development, and agriculture, see famine as the result of bad policies spanning the political spectrum. In this compelling investigative narrative, they explain through vivid human stories how the agricultural revolutions that transformed Asia and Latin America stopped short in Africa, and how our sometimes well-intentioned strategies—alternating with ignorance and neglect—have conspired to keep the world’s poorest people hungry and unable to feed themselves.

Learn more »