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It is Elizabeth Nyamayaro’s childhood experience of growing up in an impoverished village in Zimbabwe that serves as a guiding star to her today – one she describes in her 2021 book, I Am a Girl from Africa.
“I was raised by my gogo, my grandmother, in a small agro-community,” Nyamayaro says. “We grew our crops together, we harvested together. There was abundance because the food was shared by everyone.”
Then came a crippling drought, drying out water and food supplies. It left Nyamayaro and other villagers on the edge of starvation. The arrival of a Unicef worker helped to save them.
“That experience sparked my dream to become a humanitarian,” Nyamayaro says, adding, “I’m now on the other side – living that dream.”
It was in Zimbabwe where she met a United Nations worker who, decades later, propelled Nyamayaro into her role as a World Food Programme (WFP) Special Adviser – a position she held from 2021 until July of this year.
“I can’t think of any greater or more noble cause than to fight to end global hunger,” says Nyamayaro. “As someone from the global South, I feeI I have a personal responsibility to advocate for supporting communities like mine that are on the front lines of global hunger.”
In 2021, Nyamayaro was appointed WFP Special Adviser, travelling to some of the planet’s most fragile communities. She used her online and offline platforms to amplify their difficult and sometimes uplifting stories, along with WFP’s impact in changing their lives.
Her work as WFP Special Adviser took Nyamayaro to many other poor villages around the world, often visiting projects that are empowering women and girls.
In Zambia, she saw how a WFP initiative giving tens of thousands of women farmers drought-resistant seeds and training on climate-smart practices is transforming agriculture and lives.
“They’re able to grow other types of food beyond corn,” the country’s staple crop that is vulnerable to climate extremes, she says, and send their children to school.
In the traditional Aswan region of southern Egypt, Nyamayaro saw a rare upside to the Covid-19 pandemic, thanks to a WFP income-generating project targeting women. With coronavirus restrictions keeping male farmers from their fields, the women became family breadwinners for the first time, rearing and selling ducks bought with WFP loans.
“When lockdown ended, pretty much every husband whose wife had received a WFP loan said, ‘I think you should keep on working,’” Nyamayaro recalls. “It was such a simple but powerful way to empower women.”
Today, Nyamayaro has literally begun a new chapter in her humanitarian career. She’s working on two books, one fiction and the other non-fiction, which explore gender and other global inequalities.
"Once a humanitarian, always a humanitarian,” Nyamayaro says. “My goal is really to explore what that means. Being on the front lines, but also using stories, which are the universal language of connection. That’s what I hope to achieve.”
Read more about the WFP’s fight against hunger here.