Enough: Why the World's Poorest Starve in an Age Of Plenty Hardcover – Jun 23 2009
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“Thurow and Kilman are journalists who have covered famines in Africa, agricultural policy in the corridors of Washington and Brussels, and food commodities markets in Chicago. Yet their book is more than just a rough first draft of history. While grounded in colourful, entertaining reportage, Enough also displays a depth of thought and research more commonly found in academic studies. Well-chosen anecdotes bring the issues to life. Nothing could illustrate the shortcomings of US food aid policy, in which Washington sells American farmers' output in Africa rather than sending money to buy local food, better than a dialogue between an Ethiopian farmer and a US executive at a food aid meeting in Addis Ababa. The farmer asks the executive enthusiastically: ‘Can you help our farmers sell their beans in America?’ He receives an unexpected answer: ‘Actually, we represent American bean growers.’
“I recently received my copy of “Enough: Why the World’s Poorest Starve in an Age of Plenty.” Every person connected to the food industry should read it.”
“For sensitive souls, the book's vivid descriptions of the ugliness of African poverty can make for difficult reading. But the knowledge is worth the unpleasantness. Thurow and Kilman lead the reader on a journey across continents, explaining the complexities of economic dysfunction and reminding us that there is a symbiosis of wealth and poverty that explains why starvation endures in an age of plenty.”
“A page turner. Unless you simply don't give a damn, this is a must read, and it is a must read now.
Sunanda Holmes, USA Today
“Thurow and Kilman lead the reader on a journey across continents, explaining the complexities of economic dysfunction and reminding us that there is a symbiosis of wealth and poverty that explains why starvation endures in an age of plenty.”
About the Author
Scott Kilman has been the Journal’s leading agriculture reporter. Thurow and Kilman have teamed up to produce a stream of page-one stories in the Journal that have broken new ground in our understanding of famine and food aid. Their stories on three 2003 famines were a finalist for the 2004 Pulitzer Prize in international reporting.
Inside This Book(Learn More)
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Thurow and Kilman lay out the problem: a billion or so starving or malnourished people in the world, in spite of the fact that there is enough food to feed everyone. Then they describe the barriers to getting the food to the people who need it: greed, politics, good intentions gone awry, and infrastructure/technical issues. Finally, they describe some of the ongoing efforts to overcome or end-run the barriers, and they lay out what needs to happen for the great vision of Jesus in Matthew 25 - the least being fed - to come to fruition. An important read, yet an interesting read and an easy read.
The "green revolution" started in Mexico and moved to Asia and then stumbled a bit in Africa. In Africa, the absence of the social and physical infrastructure needed to promote wealth-creating, modern, efficient agriculture had a hard time materializing. And foreign aid requirements that thwarted development, by insisting on premature free-market practices in a fledgling agricultural industry, only continued the problems while exposing foreign aid for what it is: government farm support for American farmers but not African farmers. Tens of millions, if not billions in aid was siphoned off by greedy African leaders and paid to shippers for carrying grain to Africa, grain that could have been purchased for much less locally and supported local farmers. It makes American accusations of "dumping" hypocritical at best, and life-thretening at worst.
Many of these case studies and stories have been published previously in the Wall Street Journal, so they will be familiar to readers of the Journal. And the authors conclude with some useful recommendations. It may seem surprising that such a compassionate treatment should come from bastion of capitalism yet, as more and more authors reveal each year, the solution to starvation in Africa is not more, free, American grain. The solution needs to be local and sustainable. "Enough" offers a bright light on the subject.
Food policy for the last 30 years has more or less ignored agricultural development and food self-sufficiency. Instead policy has focused on moving poor countries directly to industrialization. With industries, the reasoning goes, poor countries can export goods and use their export earnings to buy food from rich countries, including the United States. We produce food cheaply, they produce goods cheaply. We get cheap stuff, they get cheap food.
The authors point out a number of problems with this approach. First, it tends to fail just when poor countries need it most. A few years ago, there was a dramatic escalation in the price of rice. Immediately, famine threatened poor countries around the world. Second, as programs helping poor farmers are cut back or eliminated, they often have little choice but to abandon their farms and become urban slum dwellers - or to emigrate legally or illegally. It's this dynamic that has driven much of the post-NAFTA immigration from Mexico to the United States.
The authors argue that we need to re-orient global food policy to help poor farmers and encourage food self-sufficiency in poor nations. They admit that the task won't be easy, and that other factors (war, corruption, and disease) also help create hunger. They also point out that our current policies are very convenient for powerful economic interests - not least large-scale farmers, global grain trading companies, and manufacturers seeking cheap labor.
The authors have been covering this beat for the Wall Street Journal for many years and are clearly both passionate and very well-informed. They are also excellent writers - if some of the subject matter weren't so grim, I'd almost be tempted to describe it as a "fun read." Highly recommended.
Here's what I love most about this book: it pays tribute to Norman Borlaug, who passed away last year. You don't know who that is? Only a Nobel Peace Prize winner, one of my heroes, who is personally, almost single-handedly responsible for saving the lives of literally millions, perhaps hundreds of millions, of people around the world. He fathered the Green Revolution, back when "green" didn't indicate anti-market, eco-feel-goodism. He developed various strains of wheat that increased yield and resisted disease. I read an interview with him in Reason Magazine a few years ago and became enthralled with his story.
Thurow and Kilman continue the Borlaug story. After winning the Nobel Prize in 1970, he went out of fashion until a Japanese business man and philanthropist drafted him to bring the Green Revolution to Africa. In spite of some early successes, it did not take hold as well as it had in India.
The reasons for the persistence of poverty are varied. The culprit I often hear is corrupt governments. Surely one does not have to look hard to find governments who use foreign aid to buy chalets in Europe, or who give out food aid based on tribal divisions, and who steal from and oppress their people. But the problem of hunger is much greater than that.
Part of the reason agricultural development was stymied in Africa, despite Borlaug's efforts, is a complete lack of infrastructure. When farmers had a bumper crop, the transportation, market structure, and commodities exchanges were not there to help them reap rewards, so they had no incentives to produce, to invest in equipment, fertilizer, or seeds.
The worst part of this story, I think, is the way U.S. agricultural aid disincentivises farmers. Farmers in Africa work hard to produce a crop, and if they can get it to market at all, they are greeted by truckloads of American-grown grain, which is virtually free for the asking. How will they make money off of their efforts? But the United States, by law, cannot send money to these struggling nations for infrastructure, equipment, or other investment in their agricultural development. Why? Because the U.S. government wants to support its own farmers, buying their produce! Now, I'm all for the success of American farmers, but so much of our farming industry is subsidized by the government for the supposedly noble cause of feeding the hungry around the world while making the problem worse that it makes me angry! Well-meaning Christians and government officials may think they're helping the hungry, but by perpetuating the policy of subsidizing American farmers to produce crops to send overseas to hungry nations they are perpetuating the very problem they think they're solving.
Enough does tell some encouraging stories. My favorite is about Dr. Joe Mamlin who, when treating AIDS patients in Kenya, realized that his efforts were futile if the patient has nothing to eat. He began handing out food along with the medicine he dispensed, and eventually started a network of clinics with their own gardens in which they grow crops and raise chickens. This dual emphasis of improved nutrition and medication has vastly improved the effectiveness of the clinics' work. (Another side note pet peeve: I am glad Western Christians are increasingly taking action and showing compassion, helping people with AIDS. I know many of the victims are truly victims, wives and children of wayward husbands who visit prostitutes while traveling or working away from home. But why do these activists never, ever mention the fact that the epidemic can easily be contained if they only have sex with their wives?)
Thurow and Kilman end with some practical steps we, as individuals and as a nation, can take to move toward alleviating poverty. In spite of their examples of heroic individuals and their actions, I mostly finished this book feeling frustrated and helpless in light of the vast power that our government, agricultural lobbies, and cultural forces, both here and abroad, have to maintain systems that perpetuate poverty. I do hope that Thurow and Kilman's voices will be heard by people who can make a difference. Too many people are starving among plenty. Borlaug's intellectual heirs, Dr. Mamlin, and others who share Thurow and Kilman's views can make those numbers shrink, the sooner the better.
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