The ARLF leadership blog

Why grassroots leadership is the key to drought resilience

22 November 2021

For Anika Molesworth, leadership in drought and climate resilience often comes from people who think of themselves as ordinary citizens, but who are doing extraordinary things.  

“In the regions, challenges get thrown at us every single day and people catch them and say what am I going to do with this? And then they get to solving them.” she said.   

“That is why I love rural people, they don’t sit around and wait for someone else to do something, they get on with it.”  

Anika sees drought resilience in Australia as not only an awareness of changes occurring in the climate, but keeping a few steps ahead of the change.  

“I think a drought resilient Australia is a community that is evolving, constantly learning more about changes in the natural world and the influence those changes have on community and business,” she said.  

“That is what being prepared is, and when you are prepared you feel like you are standing on solid ground, when you are prepared you have more flexibility to look after your business, community and mental health.”   

Since Anika Molesworth’s family started farming in Far West NSW 20 years ago, they’ve experienced 15 years of drought.  

“So, you might say we are used to it and I find myself talking about it a lot – drought is a real concern and worry of mine, but I am also inspired by the way the agriculture community faces it,” she said.  

Anika is a farmer, scientist, author and now a Drought Resilience Leaders Development Program regional lead.  

She also describes herself as a “storyteller of a different future”.  

“My love for what I do comes from the land and the place I’m incredibly fortunate to call home,” Anika said.  

“This is starkly beautiful raw untamed landscape, and I fell in love with it as a kid, but I also realised how fragile the environment is too, and how the way people interact with it impacts its health.”  

She’s also realised the impacts on the community, watching people leave her region because of the physical and mental challenges of drought.  

“But I’ve also experienced the times when drought has broken and we’ve had beautiful rainfall, and within 48 hours there are wildflowers and there are budgies in the trees singing and you think – wow where did all this life come from?” she said.  

“Drought and non-drought periods are like a rollercoaster, which is why being aware of the challenges is crucial.”  

Presenting at the TEDx Sydney event in 2017, Anika said we “don’t have the luxury of time for complacency” when it comes to the climate.  

And she is leading the way when it comes to helping people recognise the challenges ahead – the first step to resilience.  

“How do we prepare ourselves and look after our crops and livestock to the best of our ability with droughts getting worse and more frequent – by not shying away but recognising it and confronting it,” Anika said.  

Being aware of challenges, and fronting up to them, is something rural people are already adept at according to Anika.   

And this awareness is a crucial aspect of building resilience – alongside education.  

“Leadership is not having a title or an award or position of hierarchy, it is facing up to challenges and asking how I can be involved in solving and overcoming them,” Anika said.  

“I think a farmer in a field identifying a pest and disease and then looking for information on how to overcome it is leadership – and when one shares that information with others and brings them along to build their capacity – that is true leadership.”