Berry Showgirl’s African adventure

Former Berry Showgirl winner Ashley Wright-Hands armed with a mountain of ribbons for the Phalombe District Agricultural Show in Malawu.
Former Berry Showgirl winner Ashley Wright-Hands armed with a mountain of ribbons for the Phalombe District Agricultural Show in Malawu.

WHEN Ashley Wright-Hands entered the Berry Showgirl Competition in 2005 little did she know it would lead to an African adventure.

The 30-year-old, who took out the Berry title and went on to win The Land Sydney Royal Showgirl Competition, is off to Malawi in south east Africa on June 9 as part of the Royal Agricultural Society of the Commonwealth (RASC)  Next Generation Understanding and Assistance Mission.

The aim of the 14-day mission is to develop an international network to share ideas, information and views on agriculture.

“It’s going to be an amazing experience,” the locum veterinarian said.

“It will be a chance to meet with small-scale farmers and young leaders as well as meeting with agricultural officials and representatives.”

They will be hosted by the National Smallholder Farmers’ Association of Malawi (NASFAM).

“We will be visiting different areas within the country and getting an understanding of how they manage their agricultural operations and share ideas, passing on some of our experience and expertise,” she said.

Ms Wright-Hand is the only Australian representative on the mission, which starts in the nation’s capital Lilongwe.

Along with 10 participants from Scotland, the UK, Canada, Uganda and the host nation, they will visit a number of different agricultural operations before finishing in Blantyre.

“We will visit tea plantations, mango farms, goat farms and other operations,” she said.

“They farm a lot of goats. They have a lot more goats than cattle.

“During my initial vet studies we studied exotic disease – there are a number of diseases we have eradicated, but they still have, such as tuberculosis in their cattle.

“One issue I know they have is with a blood disease cattle farmers in Australia are also starting to experience called Theileria, which is anaemia in cattle.

“It is a parasite that gets into the animal’s blood and at this stage there is no effective treatment. So it will be interesting to discuss with farmers how they are tackling that.”

She said one of the highlights of the trip would be a visit to the Phalombe District Agricultural Show.

“I have such an interest in agricultural shows, having won the showgirl and joining the Berry Show committee in 2008. It will be great to see how things are done in another country,” she said.

Compared to Australian shows where placegetters often receive ribbons, at the Phalombe Show winners receive a place card.

Ms Wright-Hands has had a number of Phalombe District Agricultural Show ribbons specially manufactured to take on the trip and be presented at the show.

“They look great,” she said. “I’ve decided on light green for first, blue for second, white for third and, my favourite, pink for fourth.”

She will take 200 ribbons overseas to be awarded across a number of categories, including produce classes and, of course, goats.

“They don’t have as many horse classes as we do and hopefully they might have a few cattle classes as well,” she said.


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