Submitted photo. Majeed Nashiru rides a horse to help bring the cows in at the Indian Gardens Ranch in Savona as part of his placement with the Applied Sustainable Ranching program. “That day was magical,” he said of the experience of riding the horse in the gently falling snow.

Ghanaian finds second home in Cariboo

TRU student hopes to bring sustainable ranching practices back to Ghana

Majeed Nashiru, or MJ as his friends call him, grew up scared of horses.

He never would have guessed growing up in Yiyziiri, a small community outside of Wa in northern Ghana, that he would be spending his days on horseback, in the snow, in Canada.

Nashiru arrived in Canada at the end of April this year, and has been attending the Applied Sustainable Ranching program at Thompson Rivers University since May of this year.

Since his start at the program, he’s worked at placements at Highlands Irrigation, the Zirnhelt Ranch, and at Indian Gardens Ranch in Savona.

The road to Canada for Nashiru has been a long one.

As a secondary school student, Nashiru earned an international scholarship to spend his final two years at West Sound Academy in Washington, where he graduated as valedictorian of his class.

From there, he returned to Ghana where he spent the next three years applying to post secondary institutions.

“I had a hard time getting into universities because my certificate was a foreign one,” he said.

In the meantime, Muriel Garland was just getting started on a campaign to bring Nashiru to TRU. She had first heard about Nashiru when his teacher appealed to Garland to help with fundraising to bring Nashiru to school in the United States. Her grandchildren graduated the same year as Nashiru.

Garland’s husband, Brian, suggested that if they were going to fundraise for Nashiru, they should invite him to live with them in Williams Lake and attend TRU.

“We did, and I got an email back so fast it wasn’t even funny,” laughs Garland.

Nashiru had originally hoped to study civil engineering in Ghana. His goal was to help provide safe drinking and waste water systems to his community. Water systems in Ghana are often unsafe, and in Nashiru’s community, his family members still walk hours to get to a safe water supply.

Agricultural enterprises often rely on rains, which in the northern region of Ghana are preceeded by a months-long dry season when crops get very little water at all.

Still, when Garland told Nashiru about the Applied Sustainable Ranching program, it appealed to him.

“It was alike a light came on. I just knew this is what I wanted to take,” he said.

“The knowledge that the sustainable program is all about is sustainability in agriculture, in ranching and in everything. That is what made me go yeah this is what I really need,” said Nashiru.

“People back home, the practices are not sustainable, they are not something that brings about profit or development or anything like that, but they don’t know the new ways to do things to make life better for them.”

The process to get a passport, and then a visa to come to Canada was long, said Nashiru.

Garland also needed to raise more than $16,000 to pay international tuition for Nashiru – she canvassed local service clubs, businesses and individuals.

To date, Nashiru has learned about everything from horsemanship and stockmanship techniques to how soil types can affect vegetation nutrition, to how to build an irrigation system on a ranch.

“Sometimes you feel what you are learning here, cannot really apply, but then most of the time, most of the things you learn you can find a way to apply it,” he said.

Students of the program spend part of their week in a classroom, and then part of their week in placements on a ranch applying what they’ve learned.

When he graduates, in June of 2019, Nashiru hopes to bring what he’s learned from the program back home, and establish a farm or a ranch in Ghana that he can use to demonstrate what he’s learned.

“I come from a country where if you tell people to do this they look at you and go ‘What? Are you crazy?’ If you do it and they see what you’ve done, and they see it working out for you, then they go ‘Okay, I will do what he is doing.”’

He aims to help the people of his community develop their agriculture.

While Nashiru misses food from home — “banku” a dish made from fermented maize being his favourite — he said his adjustment to Williams Lake has been pretty smooth.

“It’s a small, amazing town,” he said. “Everyone is just so nice and I am not used to that. When you meet people they are just nice, they want to know what is going on with you.”

Garland is now starting up her second fundraising campaign for Nashiru’s second year of school, for which she’ll need another $16,000 to $20,000. He’ll also be working 20 hours a week (what his visa allows) at Highlands Irrigation when irrigating season starts up again.

People from all over have donated to Nashiru’s education fund. While in Ghana he helped co-ordinate a donation of school supplies and toys from a 13-year-old in the States to the schools in his community. The 13-year-old’s mother donated several thousand dollars to Nashiru.

“That was a life changing thing for most kids in my village. You should see their faces when I presented them with gifts. It was magical.”

Nashiru will spend Christmas on the Zirnhelt ranch, and in the new year is looking forward to the business portion of the ranching program.

The Garlands are teaching Nashiru to drive and hope to visit Ghana one day in the future.

“They are amazing people. I really could not ask for anything more,” said Nashiru. “Sometimes I tell my mom about Muriel and she goes, ‘Oh she is stealing your heart from me,’ she knows how caring she is.”

In the meantime, he’s learned to face his fear and ride on horseback.

“Riding on a horse in the snow, that day was magical. The very first day we went out to bring the cows in, it was so so cold and just snowing everywhere,” he said. “I was experiencing two new things at the same time: snowing and then riding on horseback herding cows. It was just amazing,”

“I’m just the luckiest person on earth. Sometimes I just ask myself what I’ve really done or why I deserve this, but I never seem to get the answer to that,” he said. “I’m going to make sure this luck I am facing right now, people will also face it through me. That’s what I intend on doing.”


Majeed Nashiru plays the guitar in his Williams Lake home with Muriel and Brian Garland, who ran a fundraiser to pay for Nashiru’s education at TRU’s Applied Sustainable Ranching program. Brian is a music enthusiast and is teaching Nashiru to play. Tara Sprickerhoff photo

Just Posted

Update: Firefighters battle blaze in downtown Williams Lake

Diamonds and Dust Entertainment Lounge destroyed by fire, crews on scene

Air quality high health risk in Williams Lake due to downtown building fire

Firefighters are still on scene at Diamonds and Dust Entertainment Lounge

Gilbert, Drynock charged with first degree murder of Branton Regner

The accused also face two counts of attempted murder in connection with Rudy Johnson Bridge incident

Looking back and moving forward: Legion set to celebrate 85 years

In September, the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 139, Williams Lake, celebrates its 85th anniversary.

Williams Lake well represented at 55+ BC Games

Results from Williams Lake and area athletes competing at the games are as follows:

VIDEO: B.C. man accused of assaulting sex worker loses temper in interrogation

Defence lawyer says statements made by accused Curtis Sagmoen should be deemed inadmissible

Second bat found at Greater Victoria elementary school tests positive for rabies

Island Health confirms second rabies case, this time in Saanich

B.C. man guilty of first-degree murder in Yukon killing

Edward James Penner, 22, was given the mandatory life sentence for the 2017 slaying of 25-year-old Adam Cormack

Woman stabbed at least five times in Nelson during random attack

Victim is in hospital, suspect is in police custody

Victoria man spots online photo of his totem pole 11 years after it was stolen

Mark Trueman restored the pole himself before it was stolen off of his property in Duncan

‘I’d do it again,’ says B.C. man who swam naked, drunk in Toronto shark tank

David Weaver, of Nelson, was drunk when he went to Ripley’s Aquarium in Toronto on Oct. 12 2018

How to react to Trudeau’s racist photos? With humility, B.C. prof says

‘We are now treating racism as a crime that you cannot recover from’

Horvat paces Canucks to 6-1 pre-season win over Oilers

Vancouver improves to 3-1 in NHL exhibition action

Legislature gifts, clothing, travel need better control, B.C. auditor says

Audit follows suspensions of managers by Speaker Darryl Plecas

Most Read