Mbeere - Orientation
Identification. The Mbeere live in Embu District in the Eastern Province of Kenya, East Africa. The name "Mbeere" means "first," referring to their belief that they were the initial occupants of their territory. The earlier literature sometimes referred to them as "Embu," who are distinct but culturally close neighbors. Other accounts have described both the Mbeere and Embu as "subgroups" of the Kikuyu.
Location. Mbeere territory, comprising more than 1,500 square kilometers in the southeastern part of Embu District, is an area of variable rainfall, soil types, and vegetation. It is divided into three ecological zones that fall away from Mount Kenya along a northwest-to-southeast gradient. The zone above 1,000 meters supports banana and maize cultivation. The middle zone, between 750 and 1,000 meters, sustains millet, sorghum, beans, and drought-resistant maize. The zone below 750 meters, suitable for herding, is a desiccated area of cactus and acacia.
Demography. According to the 1989 national census, the Mbeere inhabitants of Embu District numbered 88,092. Population densities reflect sharp differences in the economic potential of the three ecological zones and range from 10 to over 200 people per square kilometer. The ratio of males to females is 100 to 111, indicating the tendency of men to seek employment outside the territory.
Linguistic Affiliation. The language is known as Kimbeere. It belongs to the Bantu Subfamily, which in turn is a subdivision of the Banue-Congo Group of Niger-Congo languages. Kimbeere is closely related to the other Bantu languages of the Mount Kenya periphery.