Australian Geographic Society Gala Awards 2022: Young Conservationist of the Year, Dr Anika Molesworth

By AG Staff 28 October 2022
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Dr Anika Molesworth was 12 years old when her parents bought a farm in outback New South Wales in 2000. Although a far cry from her city upbringing in Melbourne, Anika soon fell in love with the arid landscape and farming community.

Then came the Millennium Drought (2000–09). As the landscape dried around her and became choked by dust storms, Anika witnessed the devastating impacts it had on country and community. This decade-long drought was a formative experience for Anika, spurring her interest in the sciences.

“I became really aware about the impact humans are having on the environment and started to learn more about this concept of climate change,” she says. “Our natural resources are precious and finite. If we’re using them unwisely – if we’re extracting, consuming, wasting – then that’s eroding the foundation of the farming system.” 

Anika has a Bachelor of Science and Agribusiness, a Masters in Sustainable Agriculture and a PhD in Agricultural and Environmental Science. For her Masters degree, Anika travelled to Laos to study Southeast Asian farmer perceptions of climate change and how integrated livestock and crop systems can be used to manage resources more wisely. Her PhD explored organic soil amendments and ways to improve soil fertility and moisture, to help understand how natural resources can be optimised for use as a substitute for synthetic fertilisers. As a case study, Anika examined poultry manure in cotton crops in NSW, and rice straws, cattle manure and biochar in maize systems in Cambodia. 

Image credit: courtesy Dr Anika Molesworth

Anika’s research in international agricultural development has taken her all over the world, but despite the international scope of her research, she remains firmly tied to her roots. When not working on her family’s sheep station or travelling the world as a researcher, Anika is advocating for climate-change action and environmental conservation. She might be young, but she has become one of Australia’s leading voices on sustainable farming and food security. 

“I draw so much…strength from being part of this farming community…and all the challenges that come with that.”

Anika was awarded the 2015 Young Farmer of the Year and the 2017 NSW Young Achiever Award for Environment and Sustainability. She presented at TEDxYouth@Sydney and was awarded the Young Sustainability Champion. She is a founding director of Farmers for Climate Action and creator of Climate Wise Agriculture, a knowledge-sharing platform addressing the way food systems around the world are being impacted by climate change. 

When asked what she’s most proud of, Anika cites being part of the farming community. “Farmers have this amazing attitude,” she says. “They get up every day and face a new challenge. They don’t sit back or point fingers or wait for someone else to do something. I draw so much energy and strength from being part of this farming community, these people who live in far-flung places – rural environments – and all the challenges that come with that.”  


Related: Heroes all: Meet the 2022 Australian Geographic Society Gala Award winners