There’s nothing we love more than championing women doing amazing things. Women like Anika Molesworth. Anika is a passionate advocate for sustainable farming, environmental conservation and climate change action. She helped form Farmers for Climate Action, and connects land managers to researchers through her platform Climate Wise Agriculture to help build resilience into farming communities. She’s won numerous awards, such as the 2015 NSW Farmer of the Year, and in 2017 was the state’s finalist for Young Australian of the Year. We sat down with the Charles Sturt University alumna to find out more about her passion for agriculture, what motivates her and where she’s turning her attention to next.
When Anika Molesworth’s family purchased a sheep station in Far West NSW in 2000, little did 12-year-old Anika know that that it would be the catalyst for her lifelong passion for the environment.
Anika’s family had fallen in love with the “starkly beautiful piece of Australia” and began planning their future on the farm – but then the rain stopped falling. It barely fell for the next decade.
“It was a steep learning curve into farming, and it opened my eyes to the fragility of our natural world, and how connected everything and everyone is to it,” says Anika.
“Climate change means this part of Australia – my home – will become hotter and drier, and will experience more frequent and intense droughts and dust storms,” says Anika. “It was living through the Millennium Drought, having my eyes opened to its impacts, that cemented my commitment to farmers and to my work to ensure their resilience in the face of climate change.
“It has led me to undertake a PhD in agricultural and environmental science, meet royalty and global leaders, and talk on stages like TEDx in front of thousands of people.”
Farming has never been easy work, but throw in climate change, drought and a lack of funding, and it becomes especially brutal. When we asked Anika what makes her want to do her work, she cites the incredibly passionate people she meets.
“I am so fortunate to work with farmers and agricultural researchers – not only in Australia but around the world – who spend their days working on issues like food security, environmental conservation, and climate change solutions.”
“These people – who often live remotely and humbly – feed and clothe the world, are caretakers of our beautiful natural landscapes, and the backbone of their nations. To work alongside people who do such meaningful and inspiring work is a true blessing.”
“The biggest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.”
For all the passionate people committed to solving our food security issues, there are plenty of us who feel overwhelmed and apathetic about the state of the world. Getting people to act and change their actions is at the front of Anika’s mind.
“The most important topics of social and environmental sustainability can seem daunting and can trigger disengagement. The biggest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it. What each of us does makes a difference – from a parent doing the grocery shopping to the highest level of policymaker.”
“The enormity of the problem we face from climate change and the urgency for shifting the trajectory we are currently on requires all of us to find ways to drive change. And each of us can make a difference by using our consumer, political and social influence. This means putting your money towards goods and services that are doing right by the planet, demanding all elected representatives and political parties to have science-based environment and climate policies, and engaging in the conversation to get these issues on other peoples’ radars.”
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Anika has deservingly received many accolades already in her career, including 2015 Young Farmer of the Year, 2017 NSW Finalist for Young Australian of the Year, and more recently the 2018 NSW Young Achiever Award for Environment and Sustainability. She credits her education (she studied a Bachelor of Agribusiness and a Master of Sustainable Agriculture at Charles Sturt University) for the skills and knowledge bank that she’s been able to draw from and take out into the world.
“I want to make a real positive difference, and to do that I knew I would have to get the right equipment in my toolkit. My time with Charles Sturt equipped me with critical and creative thinking, fostering systems thinking, and encouraged me never to stop exploring and questioning.”
“As the final component of my Master of Sustainable Agriculture, I was so fortunate to join a Charles Sturt University project with the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and moved to the small town of Savannakhet in southern Laos. It was such an incredible experience. My eyes and mind were opened to a farming system a world away from what I knew in Australia.”
Anika has been selected as one of 95 women in STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine) from around the globe to participate in Homeward Bound 2019 – a global leadership initiative to equip women with strategic and communication capabilities in order to influence conversation, direction and policy regarding the sustainability of our planet.
“I have been invited to participate as a young emerging leader working in agriculture, who believes there is a need to ensure vibrant and resilient farming communities for the long-term by putting in place bold and ambitious strategies now.”
“The impacts of climate change are being felt today. There is no longer room for apathy; there is no time for complacency.”
“People living and working in rural and regional Australia, particularly people in agriculture, are the canaries in the coal mine when it comes to climate change, and they play an overwhelmingly important role in the protection of these natural systems. Currently, there is a serious lack of political leadership on this issue, a disregard for science, and woefully inadequate climate and energy policies. The impacts of climate change are being felt today. There is no longer room for apathy; there is no time for complacency. Farmers can’t tackle climate change alone, and I am driven to make sure they don’t have to.”
With a woman like Anika driving change, we have no doubt that the future farming movement in Australia is in safe hands.
This article is brought to you by Charles Sturt University. Charles Sturt University operates in a paradigm of research excellence and partnership, and is committed to excellence in education and providing quality pathways to university.