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People of Kenya: Orma

The Orma are semi-nomadic herders who live in the semi-arid bush lands of south-eastern Kenya. The tribe has a population of about 70,000 people .They are related to the Borana and other Oromo groups. The community language is an Eastern Cushitic language of the Oromo family. Orma is similar to Borana-Arsi-Guji (also called Borana), but not mutually intelligible.


Many who are nearer to the coast speak Swahili. Cattle are central to the Orma culture although they keep goats and sheep alongside their cattle. Cattle are paid as bride price from the groom’s family. They are also slaughtered at weddings and funerals. Meat is the main food, supplemented with milk and blood, though now some Orma also eat maize, rice, beans and tea.

Some grains or cereals are a commodity used by all communities as you will see in your travels in Kenya. For example corn in central province is used to make githeri, while in western kenya, it is used to make ugali.

Special ceremonies surround the birth of children which starts with dedication of the child up to seven years of age. A is woman secluded for a total of 40 days where she feasts with the other women in the village and the baby is dedicated again. The ceremonies end with dancing. The expectations and demands of the encroaching technological modern life have led to cultural challenges. About 99% of the orma are muslims where they practice all the rites and festival of Islam.