Jack Hetherington

Jack Hetherington

Saturday, 16 December 2017 00:00

Deck the halls with a blog or two

2017 is coming to end with the “silly season” pretty much here!

I am sure many of you are looking forward to enjoying some spare time to catch up on the blogs you missed out on in the year. Also, I am sure you are dying to hear who the winners of the blog competition are!

Don’t worry, you have come to the right place. Not only will you find out who the winners are but you all also see some supplementary blogs to get you through the agonising time off in the coming weeks.

RAID Competition

RAID ran a blog competition to see who had the most interesting and engaging read. After much deliberation from our independent reviewers and metric analysis, we are very pleased to announce:

Winner: “Working with children”-Stephen Ives

Runner-up: “Remembering how to write beautifully” - Caspar Roxburgh

Best new blogger: “I don't love rice but I love rice research” – Sam Coggins

Well done to all three, and all the other bloggers for the year. We will be running another Blog comp next year so if you have any interesting stories to tell us, please, get in touch!

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Sam Coggins, our "best new blogger" with farmer Mr Premasiri in the Philippines

Blogs that I reckon are well worth a read

"The threat of being a "generalist" in international R4D"- Thomas Williams

A question I have often asked myself – how do I want position myself for a fruitful career internationally and in Australia? Thom gives a compelling argument about why we should not put all eggs in one basket and why you should be really good at whatever skills you have developed in your particular discipline.

"Canaries of Climate Change and Community Research" - Renee Currenti

A healthy reminder of the realities facing the people of the Pacific Island nations with the inevitable effects of climate change forcing them into a position of adaptation. Renee’s work is looking to see how the day-to-day activities are already changing in places like Fiji and what internal and external factors influence adaptive strategies.

"Are we causing more harm than good?" - Brendan Brown

This blog challenges some of the thinking about how we look at our research for development approaches, questioning if our well-intended projects are actually benefiting all in the communities we work with or just the lucky few. This was based on Brendan’s PhD with hundreds of interviews of farmers in eastern and southern Africa.

"The perils and blunders of working in agricultural development" - Madaline Healey

I am definitely guilty of a couple of these… But what’s wrong with brushing your teeth with the tap water ;-)

A big thanks to all of these compelling reads, and everyone who has contributed one (or three) this year. The blogs are a really important part of what RAID does in try to exchange knowledge, lessons, experiences and ideas, so please keep sending them in.  

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From Madaline Healey's blog on how to navigate work in agricultural development

Have you been to any of RAID’s events? What do YOU think RAID should be doing? Are we perfect and don’t need to change? Or do you think there are things we could be doing better?
RAID is currently seeking feedback from its members and stakeholders to better understand if its current activities are meeting expectations for networking and capacity building, and if there are areas to further improve how and what RAID delivers.
Feedback is sought from:
- Early to mid-career researchers (EMCRs)
- People responsible for (either directly or indirectly) employing, supervising or mentoring EMCRs

If you don’t fit into either of these categories and you would like to let us know your thoughts, please feel free to complete the survey.
There are two sections to the survey:
1 - Networking Events
2 - Capacity Building Events
The short survey will take you 10 mins. The poll will remain open until COB Friday, 16 June 2017.
Feel free to send further information or any queries to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Tuesday, 29 November 2016 00:00

Crawford in WA - Student Awards

Crawford-in-Western Australia student awards

Applications are invited from honours and postgraduate students interested in gaining international agricultural research experience in developing countries.


The Crawford Fund encourages greater recognition of the importance of international agricultural research and development to Australia by actively engaging in international agricultural research. The Western Australian Committee of the Crawford Fund offers a small number of competitive travel awards for tertiary students. The purpose of the awards is to facilitate active student participation in international agricultural projects, in order to help them gain valuable experience and expertise in developing countries. Only one or two awards will be made each year.

The awards are open to Honours and Postgraduate Students from Western Australia, with priority given to Australian nationals and permanent residents. Applicants should be engaged in a relevant biophysical or socio‐economic aspect of agriculture, animal production, fisheries, forestry, natural resource management or food security. Applicants should be enrolled either at Honours Level (3‐year degree course) or Fourth Year (4‐year degree course), or in a postgraduate degree (Masters or PhD). The award takes the form of a bursary to a maximum value of $3000 per awardee, and can be used for airfares, other travel costs, accommodation and subsistence, and/or operational research costs.

The Crawford Fund Student International Agricultural Awards are designed to augment funding from other sources—for example, agricultural research and development assistance projects being undertaken in overseas countries where the students intend to work and gain experience. The projects that the students plan to link with can be governmental (e.g. ACIAR, FAO), non‐governmental (NGO), commercial (e.g. seed or R&D company) or in association with a university. Funding to carry out research that is part of their degree work, or to attend research conferences overseas will not be considered, unless it contributes to promoting international agricultural research in developing countries.

Head to the Crawford Fund Website to find out more and apply.

Thursday, 27 October 2016 00:00

RAID's MAD Apps Workshop

RAID is calling for applications to its Annual Capacity Builing Event on Mobile Acquired Data (MAD) Apps


Theme: Digital data collection apps for international agricultural research

Places available: 20 (competitive application process)

Length: Two Days (split over three days)

Date: Wednesday to Friday, 15-17 February 2017 (commences/concludes at lunch)

Venue: Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences, University of Melbourne                                                             


To build the awareness and capacity of RAID members in the use of digital data collections apps and their use in international agricultural research.


  • To develop a theoretical understanding of the use of digital data collections apps and their use in agricultural research in developing countries

  • Gain practical experience developing surveys in CommCare and troubleshooting

  • Develop an understanding of the possibilities and support options for implementation of CommCare at scale.


Outcomes of this workshop will be most useful to those currently working on or developing projects in international agriculture for development.


Event registration is free but is limited to 20 places through application process.


Applications can be made using this Google Form. Applications close Tuesday, 20 December 2016.


See attached document for further information.


Friday, 22 April 2016 10:00

Travel plans gone sideways… pt 2

This blog comes off the back of a previous blog in which I wrote about some of my experiences of traveling overseas during my time at ACIAR. Part 1 looked at my travels to Malaysia and Indonesia. This blogs delves into my travel to Fiji and Vanuatu. 

Trip 3 - Fiji

“Attention to detail”

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Picture: Farming tomatoes in Fiji with Malikai

My third trip as a Grad for ACIAR had me travel to Fiji to meet with a project team aiming to develop an evaluation framework for agribusiness development opportunities and livelihoods in the Pacific. This had us travel to the field to visit a project site in the Sigatoka valley, working with farmers in the Participatory Guarantee Scheme (PGS) and workshopping to develop the right framework and criteria.

After a few productive days of consultation, project planning and field visits I set for home. After completing the domestic leg of the trip, Suva to Nadi, the team and I went through the usual process in the international terminal… you know:  check-in, security, immigration etc. As I reach the immigration desk my colleagues and I diverge to the three open desks for checking. I hand my passport over and wait expectantly for them to stamp away and hand it back over (we had been there for only 4 days). After a few moments of silence the immigration officer tells me I have over stayed my visa by four days and that I need to be interrogated. “but how can that be? I have been hear four days, and my colleagues have just passed through fine.” As I was pulled aside, my comrades looked at me being escorted away with slightly worried looks. After a nervous wait in the office for the immigration supervisor and no information why this happened a slightly gruff and tired looking supervisor walks in, crosses out the date in my passport and puts in that days date. He explains the immigration officer who stamped me in on arrival had the visa expiration date on his stamp set to that days date, 14 days too early. It turns out 1 in 4 people coming through immigration the day I arrived had been stamped the wrong day and needed to have their passport checked by the same supervisor. My travelling companions did not have the same issue as they did not get stamped in by the same guy as I did.

Trip 4 - Vanuatu

 “Lucky me”

My fourth trip took me to sunny Vanuatu, where I was helping coordinate the Market Day for the Pacific Agribusiness Research and Development Initiative (PARDI). This was an umbrella program which worked across a range of commodities and countries with great outcomes at the end. The market day was an opportunity to showcase the technical achievements of the project but also highlight the impact the project had to the producers and small businesses in Vanuatu. During the event I also took part in a roundtable discussion to identify opportunities to support farmers and agribusiness to become more resilient in the face of extreme weather events and climate change. Overall is was a fantastic event.

The night before my departure I get ready for an early morning start. Checking my email before bed I notice I have an email from Vanuatu airlines saying my flight has been cancelled and that I have been put on the flight to leave at 5pm the next afternoon… problem was it would get me to New Caledonia but nowhere from there. I email a colleague back in the office explaining the situation and asked if they could get in contact with the travel company to get me home. Figuring she wouldn’t see the email until 9am or after the next day I settle in for a good night sleep.

4am rolls around and I receive a wake-up call from reception. I tell them that they are mistaken and that my flight was cancelled but they cut me off telling me my colleague Bec has gotten you on the 7:00am flight direct to Sydney and that a car is going to pick you up in 30mins. It turns out she had checked her email by chance before heading to bed at midnight and called up the travel agents to fix up my flights, and then called my hotel to get them to tell me of the new flights. Thanks Bec J

I jump up, quickly shower and pack and scramble down to reception where the driver was waiting.

Luckily, I got to the airport relatively early as there was a large school group taking up 80% of the planes capacity and all of the computer systems were down. This meant that every single passenger was manually checked in, with hand written tickets and all. Being at the front of the queue saved me from a tedious wait in line behind 100+ excited and loud school kids.

Given the circumstances, I must admit the airline staff, handled the situation very well, including the couple (by the looks of it honeymooners) who had been told once they were on the plane that there was space for only one of them. Politely telling them to “get stuffed” the couple politely suggested the airline ask for a volunteer to exodus the plane for a later flight. This is exactly what the air stewardess did. And that’s exactly what they got. One of the girls in the school group who had obviously had a great time and sporting cornrows ran down the aisle wanting to stay longer. After a quick but stern word from one of the teachers supervisor her, the girl headed back to her seat a bit disheartened. Moments later the captain came out of the cock pit with the solution. The girl was to ride in the cockpit with him and one of the other kids got an upgrade to business class to give the couple two adjacent seats. Everyone’s happy and I’m heading home.

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Picture: It’s a PARDI Party with Lapita Café in Vanuatu

Friday, 26 February 2016 11:00

Travel plans gone sideways...

Written by Jack Hetherington

As my first year as a grad at ACIAR comes to a close I looked back at some of the work I have been involved in and thought what a remarkable year I have had. Stand outs were definitely the trips overseas.

As I sat down to write this blog I thought about what were some common themes with each of the trips I had gone on, and as I did I realized that on every trip I went on there was always some kind of hiccup on the way home. So this blog is a highlights some of my experiences overseas and the barriers I faced coming home. But to keep it to an enjoyable size I decided to break this into two parts: Part 1 – Malaysia and Indonesia, and Part 2 – Fiji and Vanuatu (still to come).

Trip 1 - Malaysia

“Things don’t always go to plan”


Figure 1 – Working the impact pathway with agricultural researchers from across Asia-Pacific in KL

For my first trip as a Grad for ACIAR I set sail for Kuala Lumpar, Malaysia to help out with a Monitoring and Evaluation workshop with the Asia Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutes (APAARI). Guided by M&E veteran, Debbie Templeton, we all walked the impact pathway, learning about the principles of planning a project to lead from activities, to outputs, outcomes and impacts. This involved some long days in the class room, some site-seeing of KL, and meeting a diverse group of researchers including a DG from the Pakistan Agricultural Research Council, to a plant geneticist in the highlands of PNG and a planning officer in Samoa. Needless to say this was a great group with many and mixed war stories of their time in agricultural research and development.

On this trip I had enjoyed the hospitality of Malaysian airways. My plane out of KL was supposed to take me to Indonesia to visit a project site but due to Volcanic Ash spewing from Mt Raung I was to stay an extra night in KL. Leaving the airport with no information about my changed flight plan I was assured by the airline they would contact the hotel to let me know what the deal was. So I waited. Next morning (around 9am) I called up to see what the deal was… Still nothing. So I continued to wait.

Starting to get a little bit nervous I call again, this time around midday, to find out that my plane to Denpassar was to leave in 30mins and they had already started boarding. Quickly packed my things, got a ride to the terminal, skipped the check in queue, hurried through security and immigration and got the other side to find the flight had once again been cancelled. Now given all my meetings were to happen in one day I had at this point given up on getting to Indonesia in time and decided it was time to head home. So started the joyful experience of lining up with hundreds of other travelers who had had their trip to Bali cancelled for the second day in a row. Obviously, everyone was really thrilled to deal with the robotic manner and scripted responses of the airline staff, for whom I actually do empathise with – it’s not their fault a volcano chucked a dummy spit.

So instead of boarding a plane that was supposed to leave straight away, I was put on a plane that was to leave in 13 hours back to Aus. So began a joy-filled wait for which I got very familiar with KL airport. But I was on my way home at last.

Trip 2 - Indonesia

“Hope for the best”


Figure 2 - Interviewing Bessy the Balinese cow with digital apps in Indonesia

My second trip with ACIAR was to visit the project site of a small research activity evaluating digital data collection apps in the remote areas of Bali. After spending a full-on week of meetings and field visits I left my colleague, Peter Horne, to get in a couple of hours of site seeing and relaxing before my midnight flight back to Australia on a Friday. Peter, who had some more work to deal with, insisted he could take care of my luggage to allow me greater freedom to check out the tourist spots. Agreeing to meet at the airport terminal at 8:30 we departed each other’s company and I set out. I should mention at this point that I have 5% battery on a phone that doesn’t have any connectivity – meaning I can’t actually call the person who has all my belongings, including my passport. I decide to not let this minor detail to get in the way and got on with enjoying my few hours in Kuta.

I knew roughly how long it was going to take to get from where I was to the airport and that I needed to meet Peter at 8:30. So I got in a blue-bird to whom I stressed the need to be there by 8:30 and off we went. Encountering some terrible traffic my driver felt it would be a great idea to head the opposite way in a one way alley to bypass the busy intersection. Upon encountering cars heading in the correct direction, my driver began the tedious process of getting them to reverse all the way back about 100m.


Figure 3 - figuring out the apps in Musi, a village in northern Bali

After getting caught in more traffic and finally arriving at Denpasar Airport at about 8:45 I set upon finding the man with my ticket home – literally! Hoping he hadn’t walked through the first set of gates, which required a check of your passport, I paced up and down the door line. Remember I still don’t have any way of contacting him and after 20mins of looking for him I’m starting to get a little nervous. After 30 min I find him with all of his and my luggage. Pheww! And once again I was on my way back home. Needless to say I was much more vigilant about the whereabouts of my important documents on subsequent trips.


What about you?

I am sure many of you reading this have experienced far worse than this. Tell us about some of your experiences of travelling overseas for work or research. And stay tuned for Part 2 of the tales of “travel plans going sideways”.

Julia de Bruyn, Sydney University, tells us about her work with village based poultry vaccination programs in the Majiri Village, Tanzania. The project looks to improve poultry health by vaccinating against Newcastle Disease Virus.

Julia used her new video making skills from the recent RAID Video Communications Workshop to put this little piece together.

Check out here video at the RAID Youtube page. Subscribe to other videos like this.

Great work Julia and we look forward to hearing about your work in the future.


Monday, 02 November 2015 11:00

RAID Video Competition

Firstly I would like to thanks and congratulate those that submitted their videos. Bonnie and I had a great time watching them.

It was definitely a tough call to decide the best video as they were all so interesting. We were able get it down to three but couldn’t narrow it down any further. As you may all be aware we decided to open the voting to the public (via our new swanky YouTube page) to help the decision process. After a week of voting the verdict is in. And the winner is…

Kelly Simpson

Based on the online voting your video “a scholarly sea change” received the most likes over the week and you are the winner of the RAID Video Communication prize. You can see her video here;


Special mention to the runner ups, Shoiab Tufail and Lydia Turner. You have both done a fantastic job with your videos. Both of these were really engaging and a showcase of the skills you were able to develop at the workshop. Great work J

To everyone else we hope that you are able to put your new video knowledge and skill to good use through your work and studies. This was a new area for RAID and we want to thank you all for making this a really enjoyable experience for us and want to thank you all for your highly valuable feedback.

We will continue to post up the videos that we received over the coming weeks. If anyone else has other videos that would like to share through the RAID website of YouTube page please don’t hesitate to contact us. For that matter, any stories and blogs send them our way! We love to hear about what you all are doing.

Thursday, 15 October 2015 11:00

RAID Video Competition



Vote for your favourite RAID video!

Recently RAID hosted a video communications workshop for its members to build their knowledge and skills in producing engaging and impacting videos.

The workshop participants were asked to produce a video following the workshop relating to their work in agriculture. A prize is on offer for the participant who produces the most engaging video. However, due to the overwhelming quality of all the videos RAID couldn't decide on our own. Therefore, we would like the RAIDers out their to help make this decision. RAID has narrowed the videos down to three would like you to help us finish the job.

The video finalist are:

  • Shoaib Tufail, Charles Sturt University
  • Lydia Turner, University of Tasmania
  • Kelly Simpson, University of Sydney

The winner will be based on the number of likes on each video on Friday 23 October 2015.

So get along to RAID's youtube channel and pick your favourite video. Also don't forget to subscribe.




Monday, 29 June 2015 10:00

What am I to do with myself?

By Jack Hetherington

If you asked me what I was going to be doing with myself going through my undergrad at Sydney University- Bachelor of Animal and Veterinary Bioscience (AVBS)- you probably would have heard the all too familiar “I have no idea”. If you had told me that within a few short years I would be involved in International Agricultural Research and Development I think I would have told you that you were dreaming. How times change!

As I slowly progressed through my undergraduate I, like many others in my class, was asking myself what I was going to do with once I had graduated. I guess this was made difficult as my degree doesn’t teach you to be anything in particular, rather it provides you with an array of skills and gives you the knowledge you need to pursue many different and sometimes obscure career pathways that are out there.

Initially my intention with AVBS was (with probably 90% of the class) to step-stone into Veterinary Science but I soon realised that the path of a clinician was not of great interest to me after all. So I asked “what was I to do with myself”. I had a very strong background and a bit of a passion for maths and statistics. I had also become very passionate for livestock production and agriculture. And yet I had no clue as to what career would suit me. Yet I still not found an area that I had a burning passion for; something that I could motivate myself to spend the next 40 to 50 years on.

While on the train to uni one day I picked up a daily telegraph that some other passenger had so courteously left behind. As I was flicking through I came to a story about the famine in Somalia and after reading its description of severe and almost constant malnutrition that the people there are enduring. I realised I knew what I wanted to do- Global Food Security! Using my skills in statistics and my knowledge of livestock production and animal (and human) health I realised that this was something I needed to pursue. This passion was cemented after travelling through rural areas of Peru, Bolivia and Brazil during the beginning of 2014 where we came in contact with a number of indigenous communities. Learning about the efforts of a number NGO groups to promote their livelihoods and improve their agricultural production was something I found fascinating and wanting the be more apart of.

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After returning from my travels I was able to make contact with a lecturer at uni and undertook an Honours Project assessing the relationship of livestock ownership and food security in Sub-Saharan Africa. The best part of this was that it was all stats! The worst part was that I didn’t actually get to see any of the communities or people I had all the data for and therefore, no pictures! Additionally, the findings from this begged more questions than it answered meaning that “further research is required”- which I guess in research is sometimes a good thing. From this project I am planning on submitting my paper for publication hopefully very soon. Fingers crossed!

Once I had graduated, I (unlike my classmates), had a plan and was in the unique position of beginning a full-time job as an Animal Technician. Although, I did have my eyes set on higher aspirations than cleaning up animal excrement.

It was the graduate position at the Australian Centre for International Agriculture Research (ACIAR) that had caught my eye and after some furious CV writing and sucking up to my referees I applied. Some few (painstaking and nail-biting) weeks later I received a call to say I was successful in my application. Two weeks later I was packed up and moving down to Canberra where I was to spend 1 year in a very unique position to be involved in international agriculture research and development that I dare say not many can be exposed to.

I am very much looking forward to the year ahead but I am still going to be working hard on getting my paper published, and hopefully I will get the opportunity to continue on with further studies to put my skills and knowledge to use to help solve poverty and hunger in the developing world.

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