“Its mentors gave me the voice to portray the work those on the land do, and to promote the opportunities it holds.”
It’s a 34 degree day in Cambodia with 70% humidity. Anika Molesworth is doubled over a large heap of biochar and cattle manure, shovelling it into worn-out sacks, and her Cambodian colleague asks: “Anika, why are you here? You could be anywhere you want, but you are here”. Here is a large open-air shed decorated with cobwebs, a few dozen empty sacks and a breeze blowing dust into eyes. Anika pulls away her cotton face mask and replies: “I’m here because it’s too important not to be.”
Anika has devoted her career to agriculture and the natural sciences. Growing up in Melbourne she came to the land when her family purchased Rupee Station near Broken Hill in 2000 and she was tipped head-first into Australia’s drought-riddled agricultural industry. But instead of driving her away life on the land, even at its harshest, drew her in.
She has transitioned from mustering sheep and fixing fences to completing a Bachelor of Science (Agribusiness) and a Masters of Sustainable Agriculture. She attended the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP21) in Paris in 2015, and her efforts to promote sustainable farming were recognised when she was awarded the 2015 Young Farmer of the Year. In 2017 she was a NSW finalist for Young Australian of the Year.
Anika is now undertaking a PhD comparing Australian agricultural conditions to those in Laos and Cambodia. “I’m investigating ways to improve water management and soil fertility for some of the world’s poorest farmers,” she says. “I have somehow stumbled onto a path where I have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming. I work with the most humbling and brilliant people, in locations that don’t feature on many maps, and with under-resourced teams committed to move mountains despite the odds against them.”
In 2014 Anika was selected as a Young Farming Champion, which paved her way as a global communicator. “The YFC program connected me to people who share my passion. Its mentors gave me the voice to portray the work those on the land do, and to promote the opportunities it holds. It re-affirmed to me the importance of our labour of love – and gave me the courage to speak up about the issues I care so deeply for because I know there is an amazing group of people standing at my side,” she says.
These skills have been employed as she has made major presentations to ATSE Agribusiness 2030, the AFIA Fodder Conference, the Environment of Change Seminar, the Biological Farming Conference and the Pastoralists of the West Darling AGM; and given her confidence on televised programs such as Channel 10’s The Project and on SBS where she spoke passionately about young farmers.
Anika’s work centres on a love of agriculture, a thirst for new knowledge and a real impatience to tackle the big problems such as climate change and food security. She encourages others to follow their passions by becoming involved with programs that come under the Art4Agriculture umbrella. “These programs recognise young people in agriculture come from a myriad of backgrounds and geographic locations and bring with them unique perspectives and tools to shape this industry,” she says. “The programs help us build strengths in the areas needed and connect us with individuals and organisations who help us flourish.”