This is an elegant book without the usual “parade of statistics” about problems of the deprived countries of the world. The author’s journey begins in Africa where Tanzanian, Ugandan, Kenyan, and Botswanan village and bush life are depicted. The basic difficulties of getting people to plant crops in rows, use cattle dung for fertilizer, cooperate in farming where holdings are fragmented, and even eat fish from nearby lakes are being attacked, but in an exasperatingly slow manner.

Latin America is portrayed as an area where ridiculously large numbers of dollars are used to import foodstuffs by basically agricultural countries. Starving rural folk are creating shanty towns in urban areas with severe enough problems to remind the author of Calcutta as potential minefields of discontent. Especially serious growth problems exist in Brazil, where satellite settlements have penetrated the interior around Brasilia.

Inefficient agricultural practices in Bolivia, Colombia, and Venezuela come under hard scrutiny. An encouraging report is made of a Bolivian breakthrough in breeding the saponin out of quinoa to make that plant suitable as a wheat substitute. The rapid disintegration of family structure is discussed in detail for Colombia. Jobless fathers who abandon homes and families whose children must beg and steal breed daily violence. The efforts of government agencies are still minor in the face of such problems. Yet hopeful pictures emerge now and then, such as that of new agriculture fostered in Venezuela by private industry and government agrarian reform.

Caribbean statistics might lead us to believe that things are improving in Jamaica, for example, where per capita income has doubled since the 1950s. Bauxite exports have increased average wages tremendously, as is often the case with industrial achievements, but real wages have risen for only about 5,000 people. Some 2,000,000 others still live from hand to mouth.

In the concluding chapters, aid for trade and other opportunistic types of assistance from developed countries are criticized as too much tied to political shifts. Unfortunately, the prospects of future aid seem rather dismal when one realizes that for five successive years the industrialized nations have steadily decreased assistance in proportion to their incomes.

Although the bright spots chronicled in this book are far outnumbered by the bleak ones, the former do exist, especially where people show readiness to apply the idea that their own rich must help the poor and that the only escape from misery in poor countries must result largely from their own efforts.