Site hosted by Build your free website today!

Social Forestry


  1. Evolution of Social Forestry
  2. The term social forestry first surfaced in 1976 report of the National Commission of agriculture in India, in which it was used for a programme of activities to encourage those who depend on fuelwood and other forest products to produce their own supplies – in order to "lighten the burden on production forestry" (GOI, 1976 as cited by Arnold, 1991).

    A shift from ‘Keynesian style’ development paradigm to a more rural oriented development approach paved way for the emergence of Social Forestry. In the early 1950’s the role of forests was to provide raw materials to the forest industries. This approach was based on a high " structural interdependence between forestry and the industrial sector of the economy (Westoby, 1962). While industrial forestry was at the heel, E. Eckholm pointed out in 'The other energy crisis: firewood' that " for more than a third of world's population, the real energy crisis is a daily scramble to cook dinner" (Eckholm, 1975). Hence, In mid 1970s there were shifts in the developmental thinking. This shift stemmed from the philosophy that the development should be achieved " based on rural income and output". The importance was placed on achievements of equity, emphasizing the distribution aspects underlying growth. Also people’s participation in the development process was stressed. A major event was the Eighth World Forestry Congress, devoted to the theme " Forests for People" that gave a thrust to community forestry. In an address to Congress, even Westoby took a major departure from his previous stance, acknowledging, "the dreamed snowball-effect of forest industries on rural economies has not materialised" (Westoby, 1987). Westoby later acknowledged: "In the early……I had concluded that forestry is about trees. But of course, this is quite wrong. Forestry is not about trees, it is about people. And it is about trees only insofar as trees can serve the needs of people." (Leslie, 1987).

    Hence, development thinking, and practice, was therefore moving towards a rural led focus and the need to help rural populations mobilised by devoting greater efforts towards meeting their "basic needs" – a shift which took concrete form in the World Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (WCARRD) held by FAO in July 1979.

    In 1978 FAO and SIDA launched a special action programme to heighten the importance of "community forestry" after the publication of " Forestry for local community development" (FAO, 1978).

    Also in 1978, the World Bank issued Forestry Sector Policy with a major shift from industrial forestry towards environmental protection and meeting the local needs (World Bank, 1978). Another initiative was the creation of ICRAF in 1977 by IDRC for promoting research in " Agro-forestry" (Bene et. al., 1977).

  3. Concepts and different practices of Social Forestry

Social forestry refers to a group of management strategies (Agro-forestry farm forestry, community forestry and publicly managed forestry) for local community development, in which the aspects of local participation in management and in benefits of tree growing are central objectives (Wiersum, 1991).

Important objectives of Social Forestry are as follows:

  1. Reduction of environmental degradation.
  2. Increasing supply of tree/forest products.
  3. Increasing income and employment.

The above objectives are interdependent – not only technically but achieving an objective is often a pre-requisite from socio-economic point of view e.g., reduction of environment degradation will not be achieved unless income objective is reached.

2.1 Agro-forestry

Agro-forestry is a technique often used in social forestry that attempts to accommodate farmer's objective in relationship with tree growing. It is usually defined as the deliberate combination of wood perennials (trees, shrubs, bamboo etc.) on the same land management unit as agriculture crops, pastures and animals. This combination may be obtained in a mixed spatial arrangement in the same place at the same time or a temporal sequence.

There are different systems of Agro-forestry and their interactions with other crops is summarised in table-1.

2.2 Farm Forestry

Farm forestry is the deliberate attempt of farmers towards planting or keeping trees in their farmland in order to supplement daily farm/household needs, meet the contingencies and take market opportunities created by the dwindling supply of tree/forest products from the common lands.

There are reports on trees being increasingly used as contingencies and also contributing to the household food security. Besides, the above points, the tress also contributes to the sustainable land use.

2.2.1 Farm forestry: Response towards the scarcity

The real crisis faced by the Third World Countries where firewood, crop residues, kerosene being the popular form of energy for cooking, Eckholm wrote "the people are scrambling to cook dinner under deforestation" (Eckholm, 1975). However, in the wake of deforestation, villagers coped with increased scarcity in various ways (Ghimere, 1994). Introduction of tress in the private land is widely pursued by the farmers elsewhere. A study, using aerial photographs between 1964 and 1988, observed a tremendous increase of private trees in the hills of Nepal (Carter and Gilmour, 1989). It is postulated that this increase is mainly due to the decreasing access and unavailability of forest resources (Gilmour, 1990). This shift of trees has occurred elsewhere. Pakistan gives example of Hazara forests managed by villagers in frontier tribal areas under weak state control (Dove, 1995). An African study shows " rural households are planting trees in the wake of labour shortages due to off-farm income opportunities. Farmers favour multipurpose trees over trees that supply only firewood, as cheap substitutes for firewood are available. Similarly planting trees only for fodder alone is not common, but existing fodder trees are retained (Werner, 1995, Dewees, 1995). Thus introduction of trees in private land is a strategy adopted by villagers to cope with emerging biomass scarcity. Timber trees are stores of values for household savings that do not put demand on household’s scarce cash resources (Chambers and Leach, 1989). However, tree growing is determined by the farmer’s livelihood strategies and resource base. Farmer’s decision regarding tree growing depends on: 1) declining access to the wood land, 2) loss of communal lands or restrictions on forest access 3) increasing demand for forest products 4) increasing demand from the market. A survey from western Kenya shows that the "poor" prefer firewood. The "average" had a higher portion of fruit and timber while the wealthy invests heavily in fencing (Scherr, 1995). A study on farmer’s willingness to grow trees in Gunung Kidul opts for a different reason. As the farmer’s willingness to grow trees depends on many factors. An increase in the productivity of staple crop is an important factor permitting farmers to plant trees. Government policy can also create a favourable market trend for growing trees (Filius, 1997)

2.2.2 Constrains of tree growing

The following are the main constraints for tree growing by the rural poor (FAO, 1985):

  1. Economic: trees can't compete with other uses for land, labour and capital.
  2. Social/cultural: shelter to evil spirits, harbours insects etc.
  3. Site: condition not meeting requirement for trees
  4. Land use rights tenure security
  5. Red tape(ism): Permits for utilisation

The above constraints affect the farmer's willingness to grow trees while Gregersen et al., 1989 gives some reasons with regard to flexibility that can be (dis)incentive for farmers to grow trees:

Besides the above, the higher rate of discount in case of developing countries discouraged farmers from introducing trees in their farmlands.