Interview with Gakuo Macharia aka Kalimani
Gakuo Macharia aka Kalimani was part of a collaboration between the Route to Food Alliance and Dandora Hip Hop City (DHC), highlighting food security as a human right in Kenya. As one of the best performing artists at the DHC cypher, we sought him out for a chat over chai.
Here’s what he had to say.
- What do you know about the food (in)security situation in Kenya?
I know that as a country we are not food secure. We still have people facing starvation – from Turkana to Nairobi. It’s sad that years after independence we are still hungry. This situation is aggravated by our leaders who lack the political goodwill to provide a long-lasting solution.
- What do you know about the Route to Food Alliance?
The Route to Food Alliance aims to create awareness that it is everyone’s right to be free from hunger and that it is our collective responsibility to question those in power and assess whether the solutions offered effectively meet the needs of all Kenyans.
- If I said food is a political issue, what do you understand that to mean?
Food is a political issue in that the food chain is controlled by cartels – many of whom are known by or are official government duty bearers. Additionally, the cost of living is determined by political tension in the country. For example, last year the cost of living was high mainly because it was an electioneering period and people were nervous to travel meaning food was not readily available in major markets or urban centres and the food that was available, would have been expensive. It was the same case in 2013.
- What has been your experience of food in Kenya? In terms of availability when growing up,
affordability as an adult now, and knowledge on nutrition?
My parents were subsistence farmers. They used to grow food for our own household consumption. This was healthy food grown from our backyard. In the morning we would have ngwaci (sweet potatoes) and nduma (arrow roots) for breakfast.
Right now I live alone and I can afford to have a decent meal. I wouldn’t say my food is as healthy as before. I find myself eating junk food as it is cheap and available everywhere. I also live in town where I can’t grow my own food even if I wanted to.
- What inspired you to take part in the collaboration between DHC and the Route to Food?
As an artist, I am also attracted to attending and being part of platforms that allow me to showcase my artistic skills. I love to rap and when I read about the cypher on social media, my interest was piqued. I learnt more about what the cypher was about and realised that it was about food injustices and I decided to participate.
- What were the main points you wanted to express, in your rap lyrics at the cypher?
In my rap, I wanted to speak about leadership and accountability.
Regarding leadership I was asking our leaders, “Is your conscience clear on the promises that you made to the people who voted for you?” Did you just get to power and forget that your people asked for opportunities to enable them to fend for their family?
The accountability question was directed to the citizens. Here, I am asking them that as much as it’s the responsibility of their leaders to put in place mechanisms to ensure food security, what are they doing to hold leaders to account? I want to encourage Kenyans to hold our leaders accountable in their promise to address the systemic hunger.
- What motivated you to join the Route to Food Alliance?
Before the cypher, I had not joined the alliance. I also had not learnt of any initiative that advocates for the Right to Food in Kenya. But after my interactions at the cypher and learning more about the initiative, I felt inspired to be part of it.
The drive to talk about food has always been resonated with me. Even as a kid I have participated in advocating for food accessibility and affordability. I have been part of hunger walks and food charity. I have also participated in 4K Clubs back in primary school where we learnt various agricultural practices that can help us be food secure. We need more initiatives that advocate for the Human Right to Food in Kenya and I am happy that the Route to Food Alliance is laying down a path for us to follow.
- What’s your take home and widespread message to all on this issue?
As much as there are other issues that need the government’s attention and focus, food security deserves to be among the top things we put on the table for discussion, consistently. We all know that a hungry nation is an angry nation. It is encouraging that it has been recognised as part of the Big Four agenda but this should not only remain on paper. It should be actualised to ensure that all people have access to the right quantity and quality of food.
Watch Kalimani’s music video from DHC on our Youtube channel here.
Interview by Faiba Kombo
Image: Kalimani (Gakuo Macharia), Dandora Estate, Nairobi.