“I’m still the very same person as when I started, very radical and very strongly opinionated about human rights. It’s only that now I’m more informed.”

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Episode notes

Farai is director at the Centre for Natural Resources Governance in Zimbabwe (link), and works to empower communities for whom an abundance of natural resources has brought nothing but trouble.

He has attracted considerable international recognition in this role, but this is a slightly more personal story about the journey into human rights advocacy and community organising.

Topics discussed:

[02:00] Human rights abuses around natural resources exploitation in Zimbabwe. Farai’s work at home and abroad.

[11:00] The perverse effects of natural resources for poor communities, and the limits of responsible sourcing initiatives like the Kimberly process.

[17:00] How Farai came to work in this area. The journey from reaction to pro-action, and building a sustainable community movement.

[25:00] Lessons from a decade-plus of activism in a repressive political climate. The ethical and practical pitfalls of engaging with the Zimbabwean government.

[30:20] Some international influences and inspiration for effective activism around natural resources, including human rights advocacy and “better-governed” countries.

[39:00] The frustrations of community advocacy in a hostile political environment, and staying motivated despite little tangible progress.

[49:30] How to help enable communities to speak for themselves, in an environment where political speech has been actively supressed for a generation.

[55:10] Advice for international institutions that are concerned with natural resources exploitation, if they want to responsibly contribute in situations like Zimbabwe.