Book Review – Enough

Joanna Schroeder

As I write this review, I’m sitting on my deck looking out at dozens of acres of avocado, orange and lemon trees. Yesterday, I helped to plant a vegetable garden – the produce being grown for a local restaurant. The irony is that as I am surrounded by abundance here in America, I’m reading about those in other countries who have less than nothing. “Enough Why the World’s Poorest Starve in an Age of Plenty,” written by journalists Roger Thurow and Scott Kilman, details the struggle of countries, especially Africa, to feed their people.

Agriculture is the lifeblood of the world. As a matter of fact, is it the largest industry in the world. Yet many countries cannot compete with world prices in part due to subsidies in other countries such as America and the European Union as explained by the authors. These subsidies keep commodity prices artificially low, so low that most subsistence farmers in third world countries can’t compete. Traditionally, the answer to this problem has been food aid. Give the enormous surplus grown in places like America, to third world countries.

While food aid is a matter of life or death for millions of people each year, it does not lift the people out of poverty. It does not solve the problem of widespread starvation. The farmers of Africa must have a way to make a living – one that allows them to buy food. According to the authors, more “food” aid needs to be given in the form educating farmers on how to grow more crops with less. Helping them to build irrigation systems, giving them access to affordable hybrid seeds and fertilizers and allowing the commodity markets to work in a way that farmers from around the world can sell competitively sell their food.

The reason that more educational aid is not given, say the authors, is that food aid is a way for American or European farmers to sell their surplus crops. If other countries have enough food, and begin to compete in world markets, then farmers from first world countries will lose money.

So, I understand this rationale as laid out by the authors. But in the same breath, they highly criticize corn ethanol and accuse Americans of using food for energy that would be better served in food aid capacities. But isn’t this a direct contradiction to the authors also saying the only way to lift third world farmers out of poverty is to help them grow more food? If they grow more food, then they don’t need food aid and America will have no where for the surplus corn to go. Right? I should also mentioned that hunger has been a worldwide problem long before the “ethanol boom.” Corn ethanol is not exacerbating the worldwide hunger problem.

In the book, the authors list out several ways to conquer hunger including, keep promises to expand development aid, create a global fund to aid small farmers in Africa and to invest in infrastructure. Needless to say, they also want to stop turning “food into fuel.” This is a moving book about the plight of the hungry and what not only governments but individual people can do to help eliminate hunger – I just wish people would stop blaming corn ethanol for all the world’s woes and keep their focus on the real problem and in this case the real problem of giving African farmers the tools they need to go from not enough – to more than enough.

book reviews, corn, Ethanol, food and fuel