Seline Meijer

Saturday October 03, 2015



Seline Meijer 

GESA 2014  |  The Netherlands  |  Environmental Scientist


I aim to further develop my skills and my knowledge of both the ecological and the human dimensions of environmental problems and ultimately contribute to the design and implementation of effective interventions on the intersection of international development, sustainable livelihoods and biodiversity conservation.

Me during my fieldwork in Malawi

Me during my fieldwork in Malawi.

Over the past decade, I have dedicated my time and energy to educating myself on environmental issues and, to this day, I remain fully committed and strongly motivated to work on conservation issues globally. My educational background spans the environmental sciences, forestry, biodiversity, conservation and management of natural resources. Although my degrees had interdisciplinary focuses, my training was mainly in the natural sciences, in particular biology and ecology. However, as people are at the core of any environmental issue, I became more aware that merely studying the ecological aspects of an environmental challenge in an effort to address it is not enough to achieve effective conservation. During my masters in Oxford University and my dissertation research focusing on the conservation value of a mix of human-dominated and natural landscape types in the Azores, I realised that with a fast growing human population, there is an urgent need to promote land-use systems which can simultaneously sustain people, plants and animals.

This realisation inspired me to study agroforestry systems in my doctoral research, as these systems are known to provide benefits to people’s livelihoods as well as to the environment by supporting ecosystem services. I am currently a PhD student with University College Dublin and the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) in Malawi and my current research aims to understand farmers’ perceptions of environmental issues and their attitudes towards farm-level tree planting. I have spent the past 3 years working closely with local subsistence farmers in Malawi where I applied a mixed method approach involving household surveys and focus group discussions to address my research objectives. The majority of the population of Malawi are subsistence farmers who are faced with major environmental challenges such as low agricultural productivity, climate change and high levels of deforestation. I strongly believe that only if we understand and take into consideration how local communities perceive environmental issues and their possible solutions, can we design and implement effective conservation interventions.


Achievements & Updates:

Seline was recently offered a position with the IUCN in Switzerland where she will be responsible for managing the development of, and contributing to, a new IUCN product – Human Dependence on Nature (HDN). This IUCN knowledge basket on the interrelationships between people and nature aims to improve understanding of the contribution of species and ecosystems to the livelihoods and economies of indigenous peoples and local communities. Seline starts her position as Programme Officer in June 2015, less than a year after visiting the IUCN in Gland during GESA 2014. [Updated May 2015]


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Village tree nurseries help to create an enabling environment for tree planting, as the limited availability of tree seeds is a major barrier to tree planting in Malawi.

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Agroforestry, the planting of trees on farms, has the potential to provide several benefits including improved livelihoods for farmers, enhanced soil conditions and climate change mitigation.

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Most Malawian households depend on the forest to obtain sufficient firewood to meet their energy requirements, and women spend a considerable amount of time collecting firewood.

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Typical farming landscape in Malawi in the dry season, with a patchwork of open farming fields interspersed with various different tree species.

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Supervising the household survey. I used interviews to learn more about farmers’ perceptions, attitudes and behaviour in relation to farm-level tree planting and deforestation.

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During my studies, I convened several focus group discussions with local farmers to discuss their attitudes, experiences and the barriers in relation to farm-level tree planting.

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