Dr Alexander Van Der Meer Simo

Master of Science (M.Sc.) Environmental Sciences Wageningen University (WUR), the Netherlands, PhD (ANU)
Postdoctoral Fellow

I am an environmentally-conscious researcher and dad who through time and work experience has become more aware of the increasing stress that natural systems are under. I am passionate about locally-specific, evidence-based solutions to environmental issues. In 2015, I undertook a PhD at the Australian National University, under the supervision of Professor Peter Kanowski. My interest was to find out how different forest plantation models performed in relation to the livelihoods of local people. I am also a passionate and committed member of the ACT Rural Fire Service and tutor at the ANU since 2014.

Research interests

Thesis title 

Smallholder participation in tree plantations. A comparative study of different institutional arrangements in Lao PDR 

Thesis description 

Tree growing by smallholders has received relatively little attention from policy makers and the forestry industry in Laos. As a consequence, there is still need to develop tree plantation models that support national goals of forest transition and poverty alleviation. In this context some forest plantation companies are implementing new plantation models and there is a need to investigate how these plantations can be best integrated with the rights and needs of local households. 

To date there have been very few studies undertaken in Laos that have quantified the effects of a given plantation model on the livelihoods of communities that engage with tree plantations. Those that have been undertaken have generally identified a diversity of impacts at a given time at the case study level, but not measured the impacts over time and not looked at the differences between different models of plantations. 

This study aims to fill in these gaps by assessing the (positive and negative) social, economic and environmental effects that three different recently implemented approaches to tree plantation development in Lao PDR have on the livelihoods of farmers that have engaged with these approaches. The methodology is structured around comparative case studies between plantation development models that differ in terms of community engagement, technical inputs and scale. In order to build validity, the research will gather evidence from two different communities engaged in each plantation model, and within each village surveys and focus groups will compare the effects of the plantations between rural households that engage in plantations and rural households that do not. In doing so, I will aim to answer the main questions of this study:

  • What are the effects of recently implemented approaches to tree plantation development on the livelihoods of the households that engage with these approaches and how are costs and benefits distributed among stakeholders?
  • Does the engagement in these tree plantation value chains deliver pro-poor outcomes – not only in terms of income gains, but also with respect to employment stability, income security, food security and broader well-being indicators?
  • van der Meer Simo, A., Kanowski, P. and Barney, K., 2020. The role of agroforestry in swidden transitions: a case study in the context of customary land tenure in Central Lao PDR. Agroforestry Systems, pp.1-16.
  • van der Meer Simo, A., Kanowski, P. and Barney, K., 2020. Economic returns to households participating in different models of commercial tree plantations in Lao PDR. International Forestry Review, 22(1), pp.132-152.
  • van der Meer Simo, A., Kanowski, P. and Barney, K., 2019. Revealing environmental income in rural livelihoods: evidence from four villages in Lao PDR. Forests, Trees and Livelihoods, 28(1), pp.16-33.
  • Barney, K. and van der Meer Simo, A., 2019. Forest Land Commons in Laos in the Twenty First Century: Agrarian Capitalism and the ‘Non-Commodified Subsistence Guarantee’. Kyoto Review of Southeast Asia, 25, 6p.
  • Barney, K. and van der Meer Simo, A., 2019. Forest Plantations and Smallholder Livelihoods: Evidence from Community Case Studies in Lao PDR. Component Report, ACIAR Project ADP/2014/047. Australian National University, Canberra.
  • Smith, H., Carmichael, E., Keenan, R., Kanowski, P., Phompila, C. and van der Meer Simo, A., 2017. Tree Plantations in Lao PDR: Environmental management and protection measures. Project Working Paper 3. ACIAR Project ADP/2014/047. Canberra.
  • Smith, H., Barney, K., Byron, N., van der Meer Simo, A., Phimmavong, S., Keenan, R. and Vongkhamsao, V., 2016. Tree plantations in Lao PDR: policy framework and review. ACIAR Project ADP/2014/047. Canberra.
  • van der Meer Simo, A. (2006). Farmers fighting poverty: Mapping rural people organizations in the Republic of Kyrgyzstan. Publisher: Agriterra. Number AgriStudies:
  • van der Meer Simo, A. (2006). Country strategy paper: Romania. Publisher: Agriterra. Number AgriStudies: Publisher: Agriterra. Number AgriStudies:
  • Derix, E, van der Meer Simo, A, Marquez, L, van der Stap, R, Mamani, P. (2007). Estudio socio-económico e identificación de necesidades y potenciales en 14 comunidades del Municipio de Achocalla. Centro Integral de Desarrollo Socioeconómico y Agroecológico Chakana.