Mr Alexander Van Der Meer Simo

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

Half Spanish - half Dutch and married to an Australian, I have 12 years of professional work experience, including jobs in Europe, South East Asia, South America and Australia. Several of these positions have been jobs in environmental conservation, agricultural development and community engagement. 

I have also worked 4 years at Van Hall Larenstein University as a lecturer in environmental policy and sustainable development. Throughout my career I have frequently chosen to change location as I enjoyed the challenge of a new environment and to learn from new experiences. I always experienced this as refreshing and very rewarding in terms of cross-fertilization and constant learning.

Throughout this journey I lived for a period of 18 months in Laos, where I will be going back for my PhD. In my previous period in Laos I worked as a contractor for the non for profit organisation Village Focus International. In this job I wrote project strategies that secured funding for projects that aimed to influence policy makers in their appreciation for small-scale land uses, which are sustainable and an alternative to large-scale investments and plantations.

Through this PhD I am entering a new phase in my personal and professional development. At the end of it, I hope to be a better person, and to have better research and analytical skills with which I can offer a tangible contribution to forest conservation and poverty alleviation.

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. (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.