Meru, Kenya

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Meru District is the home of the Meru tribe, which is sometimes described as being related to other tribes living around the Mt. Kenya region: the Kĩkũyũ and the Embu. The Wameru are generally called "Bantu" people who have been native to the Mt. Kenya area for many, many years — well before colonization of Kenya by Great Britain in the 19th Century. The people of Meru District are now predominantly ChristianMethodist, Presbyterian,Roman Catholic, and other denominations, reflecting the work of missionaries — with also many citizens of Indian descent, who are mainly Hindus, and African/Arab descent, who are Muslims, though these latter groups are relatively small minorities. Meru also has some resident Europeans of various nationalities, but predominantly British in ancestry.

Meru Town is located on the northeast slopes of Mount Kenya, about five miles north of the equator, at approximately 5,000 feet altitude. It is located in an area of mixed forest and clearings, with smaller towns and villages, and rural farms surrounding it, in the larger district, also called Meru.

The town is accessible by paved road, whether from the south around the east side of Mount Kenya, via Embu, or from the northwest around the west and north side of Mount Kenya, via Nanyuki and Timau (As of February 2004, the road to Meru via Nanyuki was still fairly rough). Meru District is an excellent jumping-off place for Samburu and Buffalo Springs National Reserves and Lewa Downs, all some distance north of Meru, with Samburu and Buffalo Springs via Isiolo, and Meru National Park, to the northeast of Meru, via Maua in the Nyambeni Hills.

Meru Town is a business, agricultural and educational center for the northeast of Kenya. It has three or four banks and numerous hotels, markets and transportation terminals. Coffee, tea, timber, cattle, dairy products, "french" beans and many other manner of products are produced in Meru District. In addition to numerous primary, secondary and technical schools, there are teacher training colleges and the recently developed Kenya Methodist University at Meru, known as KEMU.

It is an important coffee producing area. It is virtually all smallholder-grown, and much of it shade-grown. Its quality rivals that of Nyeri and other areas around Mt. Kenya well-known for their quality coffees. Meru's coffee crops come twice a year, corresponding to the two rainy seasons, which is true of other Kenyan coffees, but the main crop in Meru comes at a somewhat different time than that elsewhere in Kenya, due to different weather patterns on the northeast slopes of Mt. Kenya and the Nyambenis. It is all grown at high-altitudes in the volcanic soils of the district. It is processed by farmer cooperatives which own coffee factories near the farmers.

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