Introduction / History The Embu are a farming community on the southern slopes of Mt. Kenya. They live together with the Mbeere people and they and the Mbeere speak two dialects of the same language.
Christianity was brought by CMS (Anglican) missionaries who set up a camp at Kigari in 1910. They started schools, health clinics, and helped with agricultural concerns in addition to evangelism and starting churches. Because of the advantages of education available to them, the Embu and Mbeere peoples have had reasonable development in physical facilities, education, agriculture, animal husbandry and housing.
To the people of old, God, Mwenenyaga, lived on Mt. Kenya which they called Kirinyaga, and had to be appeased by animal sacrifice in special groves left sacred for that purpose. Only the old men could offer sacrifices. This, however, has been replaced by Christianity and the groves dismantled and converted to farmland.
In the early evangelism, the CMS missionaries came to Embu from working with the Gikuyu people. The missionaries had learned the Gikuyu's language, and their helpers were invariably Gikuyu speakers. As a result, they introduced Gikuyu as the language to be used in literacy work, and when Gikuyu scriptures were translated (the New Testament in 1926 and the Bible in 1951), there did not appear to be need for KiEmbu/KiMbeere scripture. It is evident however, that the languages spoken by the people are significantly different from the Gikuyu. Pastors and evangelists normally translate the Gikuyu into KiEmbu/KiMbeere as they preach, the quality of translation being dependent on the level of understanding of Gikuyu by the speaker.
The KiEmbu language has been put in print and several literacy books have been developed, but not introduced in schools. Other works include riddles and proverbs in KiEmbu, and the history of the Embu people. The literacy level in Embu District is above the average for the nation.