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5.0 out of 5 stars Amazon

Must read for those interested in African agriculture, October 11, 2010

By Carl - This review is from: Surprised by Laughter (Hardcover)

As a current African agriculturalist (I currently work in rural Zambia), it is refreshing to hear a voice describing the point-of-view of the African farmer, particularly from someone who has spent such considerable amount of time on the ground as has Stephen Carr. This is by far a journey in empathy ... Mr. and Mrs. Carr's story reveals an appreciation of the challenges of life in rural Africa that shape decision-making by farmers, as evidenced by his tales of the southern Sudan, Uganda, Tanzania, and Malawi. I would recommend this as a "must read" for those who deal at any level with agricultural policy in sub-Saharan Africa.

About the Author

Stephen Carr is a leading authority on African rural life. This was given official confirmation when London University gave him the rare distinction of electing him as an Honorary Life Fellow on the basis of “his unparalleled knowledge of African smallholder agriculture”. There was further support when Queen Elizabeth made him an Officer of one of the British orders of chivalry in recognition of his outstanding contribution to African agriculture.


Following on his graduation in agriculture he went to Africa in 1952 as an Anglican missionary and spent 20 years living and working in villages in the Southern Sudan and Uganda as he helped farmers to become more productive. In recognition of this work the Royal Africa Society of Great Britain awarded him their annual medal for “outstanding dedication to Africa”.


In 1973 he was asked by the government of the Southern Sudan to head up their agricultural department to rebuild a service shattered by years of civil war. This was followed by a posting as agricultural advisor to the Prime Minister’s Office in Tanzania. From there, in 1978, he was recruited as a principal agriculturalist in the World Bank covering Sub-Saharan Africa. He retired from that post in 1989 and since then has lived in a small village in Malawi from where he has provided initiatives which have had a major impact on the lives of hundreds of thousands of rural families in that country.

He has written several technical books on African smallholder agriculture but in Surprised by Laughter he has sought to highlight the many good and positive experiences he and his wife, Anne, have enjoyed with their neighbours during the decades in which they have actually lived as members of African village communities.