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CTP Lecture Series

The Last Hunger Season
Roger Thurow
Senior Fellow, Global Agriculture and Food Policy 
The Chicago Council on Global Affairs

Date: September 18, 2013

Roger ThurowRoger 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.

Faith and Leadership Under Fire in the Middle East
Canon Andrew White

Date: September 12, 2013
Location: Vanderbilt University Reading Room
Time: 5:00pm

Canon Andrew WhiteIn this presentation, Canon Andrew White will discuss the extraordinary story of his ministry in leading St. George’s Baghdad, one of the largest churches in Iraq and located in the Red Zone of Baghdad.  Canon White will discuss the leadership challenges he faces as the Vicar of St. George’s Baghdad as it provides a spiritual home, medical care and humanitarian relief to neighbors of the church in the face of great danger to Canon White and the church’s staff and congregants in a region of increasing chaos and sectarian strife.  Canon White will also discuss his conflict mediation and reconciliation efforts throughout the Middle East,  including leading the negotiations to end the Siege of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in 2002.


Canon Andrew White, known as the “Vicar of Baghdad,” is the pastor of St. George’s Baghdad, one of the largest churches in Iraq and the only remaining Anglican church in Iraq.  In the face of significant threats to him personally and repeated bombings of the church, St George’s Baghdad ministers to over 4000 Iraqis and operates well outside the safety of the International Green Zone. Most of the members of the congregation are women and children – widows and orphans – since many of the men have been killed in the decades of violence in Iraq.  In addition, many of his staff have been kidnapped or killed, with up to 11 killings of his staff in a single year.

Canon White has also been heavily involved in conflict mediation and reconciliation efforts in Israel and Palestine, including negotiating the end of the Bethlehem siege in 2002, and has been the recipient of numerous peace prizes for his reconciliation efforts.

St. George’s Baghdad also operates a medical and dental clinic which delivers humanitarian relief to neighbors of the church, regardless of the patients’ religious or ethnic background. The clinic provides free medical and dental care to around 150 Iraqi patients every day.

Canon White says: ’I have been detained at gun-point, been thrown into a room with people‘s chopped-off fingers and toes all over the floor, and have had my picture posted on walls around Baghdad with a notice saying, “Wanted, dead or alive”. Members of my church have been kidnapped or killed. I have lost many friends. It is very difficult but we never give up.’

 Canon White has written several books and publications including Iraq; People of Promise, Land of Despair (2003), Iraq: Searching for Hope (2005), The Vicar of Baghdad (2009), Suffer the Children (2010), Faith under Fire (2011), and Father, Forgive (2013). When he is not in Baghdad, Canon White resides in England with Caroline, his wife, and his two sons Jacob and Josiah. 

Photo of Nannerl Keohane


 "The Responsibilities of Leadership and the Problem of Dirty Hands"
 Nannerl Keohane

October 6, 2011

This lecture addresses the issue sometimes known as "dirty hands." We will consider several possible answers to one basic question: must a political leader be prepared to behave immorally in order to succeed? What's distinctive about political leadership in this context? Does the "dirty hands" problem also arise for leaders in other contexts than politics, corporate or higher education leaders, for example? Following Max Weber, the lecture focuses on the theme of responsibility to deal with the nature of the ethical challenges that all leaders, but especially political leaders, face.

Nan Keohane writes and teaches in political philosophy, leadership and feminist theory. She has served as president of Wellesley College (1981-1993) and Duke University (1993-2004). She is the author of Thinking about Leadership (Princeton University Press 2010), Higher Ground: Ethics and Leadership in the Modern University (Duke University Press 2006) Philosophy and the State in France (1980) and co-edited Feminist Theory: a Critique of Ideology (1981). Keohane has taught at Swarthmore College, the University of Pennsylvania, and Stanford University. She is also a member of the Harvard Corporation, and chairs the Board of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. Her current research interests concern leadership and inequality, including gender issues. B.A. Wellesley College; M.A. St Anne's College, Oxford University; Ph.D. Yale University. Professor Keohane is married to Robert Keohane; they have four children and eight grandchildren.