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Inside/Out with Ian Scoones*, researcher on Zimbabwe land issues
January 17, 2013

Describe yourself in five words?
Researcher, parent, politically-committed, relaxed, scruffy.

What's the best piece of advice you've ever received?
If you are a researcher, know somewhere really well, so you know how little you know about other places.

What's the most ridiculous thing you've ever done?
Dressing up as a tortoise in a large papier mache shell and crawling round a shopping centre to raise money for some conservation work I was doing in Madagascar.

What is your most treasured possession?
iPhone - and the music on it.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
When injustices are carried out, and can be prevented.

Do you have any strange hobbies?
I have an allotment and farm vegetables. Not really strange, but my farmer friends in Masvingo find it highly amusing.

What do you dislike most about your appearance?
I cannot be smart. Ever.

What is your greatest extravagance?

What have you got in your fridge?
Lots and lots of half used jars of pickle, jam etc. And cheese.

What is your greatest fear?
Death, loss of loved ones.

What have you got in your pockets right now?
A large bunch of keys, most of which I have no idea what lock they fit. And an iPhone (of course).

What is your favourite journey?
The stretch of road to Ngundu and beyond where the huge granite domes dominate the landscape.

Who are your heroes in real life?
Mr Zephaniah Phiri of Msipane, Runde communal area in Zvishavane district, aka ‘the water harvester', and founder of Zvishavane Water Projects. An extraordinary, brave, intelligent and visionary person who I have learned so much from over nearly 30 years.

When and where were you happiest?
When my two children were born - Jake in 1997 and Kate in 2002. And also when I was doing my PhD in Mazvihwa communal area in the late 80s. So much new to learn, so much optimism about future possibilities.

What's your biggest vice?

What were you like at school?
A bit nerdy (‘the scientist'), but also part of an activist group of students - saving the whale, saying no to nuclear energy and protesting against apartheid and the nuclear arms race.

What are you doing next?
Going to a meeting. Again.

*Ian Scoones is a Professorial Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, UK (, and researcher on Zimbabwe land, agriculture and rural development issues ( and

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