Social forestry in India
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Social forestry means the management and protection of forests and afforestation on barren lands with the purpose of helping in the environmental, social and rural development.
The term, social forestry, was first used in India in 1976 by The National Commission on Agriculture, Government of India. It was then that India embarked upon a social forestry project with the aim of taking the pressure off currently existing forests by planting trees on all unused and fallow land.
Social forestry programme
Government forest areas that are close to human settlement and have been degraded over the years due to human activities needed to be afforested. Trees were to be planted in and around agricultural fields. Plantation of trees along railway lines and roadsides, and river and canal banks were carried out. They were planted in village common land, government wasteland, and Panchayat land.
Involvement of common people
Social forestry also aims at raising plantations by the common man so as to meet the growing demand for timber, fuel wood, fodder, etc., thereby reducing the pressure on the traditional forest area. This concept of village forests to meet the needs of the rural people is not new. It has existed through the centuries all over the country but it was now given a new character.
With the introduction of this scheme the government formally recognised the local communities’ rights to forest resources, and is now encouraging rural participation in the management of natural resources. Through the social forestry scheme, the government has involved community participation, as part of a drive towards afforestation, and rehabilitating the degraded forest and common lands.
This need for a social forestry scheme was felt as India has a dominant rural population that still depends largely on fuelwood and other biomass for their cooking and heating. This demand for fuel wood will not come down but the area under forest will reduce further due to the growing population and increasing human activities. Yet the government managed the projects for five years then gave them over to the village panchayats (village council) to manage for themselves and generate products or revenue as they saw fit.
At present in almost all the countries where social forestry programmes have been taken up, both commercial and non commercial farm forestry is being promoted in one form or the other. Individual farmers are being encouraged to plant trees on their own farmland to meet the domestic needs of the family. In many areas this tradition of growing trees on the farmland already exists. Non-commercial farm forestry is the main thrust of most of the social forestry projects in the country today. It is not always necessary that the farmer grows trees for fuelwood, but very often they are interested in growing trees without any economic motive. They may want it to provide shade for the agricultural crops; as wind shelters; soil conservation or to use wasteland. Farm Forestry is another name for Agroforestry; a part of Social Forestry.
[Also called as Rural Forestry] Another scheme taken up under the social forestry programme, is the raising of trees on community land and not on private land as in farm forestry. All these programmes aim to provide for the entire community and not for any individual. The government has the responsibility of providing seedlings, fertilizer but the community has to take responsibility of protecting the trees. Some communities manage the plantations sensibly and in a sustainable manner so that the village continues to benefit. Some others took advantage and sold the timber for a short-term individual profit. Common land being everyone’s land is very easy to exploit. Over the last 20 years, large-scale planting of Eucalyptus, as a fast-growing exotic, has occurred in India, making it a part of the drive to reforest the subcontinent, and create an adequate supply of timber for rural communities upon the augur of ‘social forestry’.
Planting of trees on the sides of roads, canals and railways, along with planting on wastelands is known as ‘extension’ forestry, increasing the boundaries of forests. Under this project there has been creation of wood lots in the village common lands, government wastelands and Panchayat lands.
Schemes for afforesting the degraded government forests that are close to villages are being carried out all over the country.
[Comes under Rural Forestry] In agroforestry, silvicultural practices are combined with agricultural crops like leguminous crop, along with orchard farming and live stock ranching on the same piece of land. In lay man language agroforestry could be understood as growing of forest tree along with agriculture crop on the same piece of land.
In a more scientific way agroforestry may be defined as a sustainable land use system that maintains or increases the total yield by combing food crop together with forest tree and live stock ranching on the same unit of land, using management practices that takes care of the social and culture characteristic of the local people and the economic and ecological condition of the local area.
Social forestry schemes have been started throughout India, making a difference in forest cover and benefiting rural and urban communities. The main objectives of such schemes include:
- Improve the environment for protecting agriculture from adverse climatic factors,
- Increase the supply of wood fuel for domestic use, small timber for rural housing, fodder for livestock, and minor forest produce for local industries,
- Increase the natural beauty of the landscape; create recreational forests for the benefit of rural and urban population,
- Provide jobs for unskilled workers and
- Land rehabilitation
- Finally, its object is to raise the standard of living and quality of life of the rural and the urban people.
- To carry out a need based and time bound programme of afforestation with special emphasis on fuel wood and fodder development on all degraded and denuded lands/forests.
- Afforestation of abandoned jhum lands and mined areas.
- Linear strip plantation of fast-growing species on sides of public roads, rivers, streams and irrigation canals.
- Afforestation on under-utilized lands under state, institutional or private ownership.
- Green belts in urban/industrial areas.
- Shelter belt (generally more extensive than the wind breaks) for the purpose of shelter from wind and sun covering areas larger than a single farm on a planned pattern.
- Farm forestry in the form of raising rows of trees on bund or boundaries of fields and individual trees in private agricultural land as well as creation of wind breaks round a farm or orchard by raising one or two lines of trees.
- Raise flowering trees and shrubs mainly to serve as recreation forests for the urban and rural population.
- Elicit people’s participation involving women and young people in conservation of forests, wildlife and environment.
- Environmental awareness generation and celebration of vanamahotsava, environment day, wildlife week etc.
- Communal forests of India
- Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education
- Panchayati Raj
- Joint Forest Management
- Ministry of Environment and Forests (India)
- Sustainable development
- Timeline of environmental events
- Van Vigyan Kendra (VVK) Forest Science Centres
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