Overview of Meru County
Meru County is found in the eastern region of Kenya, approximately 225 kilometers northeast of Nairobi.It covers an area of 6,936 square kilometers.Meru shares it border with five other counties; Isiolo to the North, Nyeri to the South West, Tharaka-Nithi to the South West and Laikipia to the West.The origin of the word ‘Meru’ is believed to come from the Maasai people who referred to Tigania and Imenti forests as the Mieru forests or simply the Quiet Forests.
Maasais are also believed to have used the term Mieru to name any tribe which could not understand their Maa language.
Meru County Government
Meru County is made up of nine constituencies; Igembe South, Igembe Central, Igembe North, Tigania West, Tigania East, North Imenti, Buuri, Central Imenti and South Imenti.
The governance in the County is under Peter Munya (Governor), Kiraitu Murungi (Senator), Chege Mwangi (County commissioner) and Florence Kajuju (Women Representative).
Other top leaders in Meru County include Mithika Linturi (MP- gembe South), Cyprian Iringo (MP- Igembe Central), Joseph M’uthari (MP-Igembe North), David Karithi (MP-Tigania West), Lawrence Aburi (MP-Tigania East), Abdul Dawood (MP-North Imenti), Bonface Gatobu Kinoti (MP-Buuri), Gideon Irea (MP-Central Imenti) and Kathuri Murungi (MP-South Imenti.
Who lives in Meru County?
The population in the county according to the 2009 Kenya National Bureau of Statistics is 1,365,301 people.
The main people who live in Meru comprise sub tribes of the Ameru community. These include the Imenti, Tigania and Igembe sub-tribes. Besides Kiswahili and English, Ki-Meru is the ethnic language spoken by this community.
Others who reside here is a significant percentage of Ameru cousins in the GEMA grouping including Kikuyu, Embu and Kamba. However, Merus of Kenya are not the same as the Meru people of Tanzania. There are also Borana, Somali, Asian and a few Caucasian whites who have made the county home. Most of these other people are engaged in business or employed in the various sub-sectors in the region.
Religion and Traditional Culture
Meru County is mainly a Christian stronghold. Although there are Catholics, Presbyterian and Anglican faithfuls, the Methodist church commands the largest following in this region, with Muslims and Hindus most of whom live around Meru town comprising the smallest religious group.
Culturally, the Ameru believed in an ancestral god called Murungu or Arega Kuthera. There was deep reverence for the spirit of the living dead. Ameru believed in offering sacrifices to their dead ancestors. The divine leader of the Ameru was called the Mugwe. These were respected persons who made sacrifices and performed healing on behalf of the tribe. However, with the arrival of Christianity, the cultural rites and functions have become obsolete.
Lying next to the Kathita River which cuts through the town, Meru town is the commercial and administrative centre of Meru County. It is mostly an agricultural and business centre and takes prides in having one of the largest open air market – Gakoromone – in the Comesa region.
Located about 60 kilometers from Meru town, Maua is one of the economically viable towns due to the thriving Miraa trade. The town is notable for the extraordinary blend of tribes that live here to exploit proceeds from the Miraa trade. Ikweta Country Inn and Conference centre, Soldat Teachers college and Methodists Nursing School are in Maua.
Sitting next to the banks of Thingithu River, along Nairobi-Meru highway is Nkubu town. The town is mostly a trade, agricultural and administrative centre. Here you find financial institutions such as the DTB and Imperial Bank, the Kaguru Agricultural Training Centre, Mount Kenya University campus, South Imenti Tea Farmers Sacco building among others.
Other urban centers in Meru include Mikinduri.
Climate and Weather
The climate in Meru can be described as cool and warm. Temperature ranges between 16°C during the cold season and 23°C in the hot-warm season. Meru receives an average rainfall of between 500mm and 2600mm each year.
The county’s economy relies mostly on agriculture. Most people are engaged in subsistence farming where they grow common foods such as maize, beans, sorghum, millet cabbages and fruits. Other grow coffee and tea as cash crops and take their teas for processing in nearby factories including Weru, Kionyo, Githongo and Imenti Tea Factory.
Commercial fruit growing has become popular under Bill and Melinda Gates foundation’s Project Nurture. This includes small scale growing of mangoes and passion fruit in Imenti. The county is renowned for its wide scale growing of the Miraa (Khat) – a herbal plant, which turned a lucrative cash crop for the locals. The Khat is mostly grown in Maua, Igembe and Tigania and fetches millions of shilling in the export market for its farmers.
There are over 200 heathcare facilities serving the county – some run by the government while the rest are either faith-based or privately owned. Notable among them are the Government hospitals – Chuka District Hospital, Meru District Hospital, Tigania Hospital, Miathene District Hospital and Kanyakine District Hospital.
Church run facilities include Cottolengo Mission Hospital, Maua Methodist Hospital and St.Theresa’s Mission Hospital Kiirua among others. Some private hospitals include Aga khan, Karen hospital, Laare Nursing & Maternity Home, Nyambene Clinical Services & Nursing and Woodlands Hospital.
As of 2013, there are 712 primary schools and 112 secondary schools in Meru County, as well as tertiary institutions and colleges. Some top secondary schools in Meru include: St. Mary’s Girls High School; Igoji, Meru School, Kaaga Girls High School, Nkubu High School, Kanyakine High School, Bureiruri Boys Secondary School, St. Pius X Seminary among others.
Some of the private and public colleges include Meru Teachers College, Meru Teachers Training College, Kiirua Technical Training Institute, Egoji Teachers College, Meru Technical Training Institute and Nkabune Technical Training Institute among others.
The county also hosts a number of universities that include Meru University College of Science and Technology, Mt. Kenya University; Nkubu and Kenya Methodist University (KEMU).
Some prominent persons who hail from Meru include Francis Muthaura, Gitobu Imanyara, first minister from Meru Jackson Angaine, former police commissioner Matthews Iteere and popular comedian Mc Jesse.
Attractions and Places of Interest
Because Meru County is found on the foothills of the Mount Kenya, visitors and tourists can enjoy climbing to the epic peaks of Kenya’s highest mountain through the Chogoria route. The Meru National Park is a worthwhile attraction for game lovers, and so is Ithanguni – the 18th tallest mountain peak in Kenya, Meru National Museum, Semwe Salt lick, Vivvien Falls, Meru Bandas and Sacred Lake.
Travelling to Meru County
It takes approximately 3 hours from Nairobi by road. You can also access Meru town from other towns; Nyeri-Nanyuki-Timau road, Nyeri-Embu-Meru road or the Nairobi- Makutano-Embu-Meru highway. The main means of public transport used is buses and passenger matatus. Two air strips serve this region; the Kinna airstrip inside Meru national park and another in Elsa Kopje luxury Safari tent – both used by privately serviced small aircrafts.
Among them is the Central Bank of Kenya Currency Centre to serve the region and over 20 bank branches from different commercial banks. These include National Bank, Equity, Co-Operative, Family Bank, KCB, Standard Chartered, Ecobank, Diamond Trust and other mainstream banks. The country has several micro-financial firms including K-Rep, KWFT, Faulu Kenya, and post bank branches the popular M-pesa mobile money transfer is an alternative banking options for the county locals.
The county is served by a number of leading shopping outlets and supermarket chains which include Tuskys, Nakumatt, Budget, Uchumi and Samrat supermarkets. Other shopping outlets include Jube and Kaka supermarkets. Most of these are found in several towns within the county including Nkubu and Meru town.