Friday, 12 December 2014 05:23




The history of exploitation and destruction of forests in India goes back to the British period when the forests wealth was consumed for commercial gains. The trend continued even after independence and the forests were used not for imperative economic growth but for other various reasons. The denudation of forest land, however, has now slowed down in recent years despite human and commercial pressures due to efforts made by various agencies.

The Government of India and other agencies have launched promotional scheme “Social Forestry” all over the country for afforestation and fresh plantations to increase the forest cover in which the participation of local people has also been encouraged.

Social forestry as an instrument of sustainable development has the potential of resolving the three basic issues of rural poor simultaneously i.e. to provide food security, fuel security and livelihood security with eco-friendly approach to development.

Social forestry is a programme governed by the principle-of the people, for the people, and by the people.

The objectives of the programme are:

• Afforestation in lands outside forest areas.

• Increasing the number of trees in India.

• Promoting the participation of institutions and people in the field of growing of trees.

• Increasing the yield of timber and other non-timber forest produce like fruit, firewood, fodder, etc to ensure easy supply to people.

• Putting less fertile and unproductive land to productive use

• Augmenting the income of people by tree planting.

• Increasing the employment opportunities of rural poor.

Social forestry scheme can be categorized as:

a) Farm forestry

Under this programme 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 existed. 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.

b) Community 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, fertilizers 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 under the augur of 'social forestry'.

c) Extension 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.

d) Agro- forestry

Planting of trees in and around agricultural boundaries, and on marginal, private lands, in combination with agricultural crops is known as agro-forestry.

Social Forestry was conceived as people-centred programme, a programme to empower the rural poor for their fuelwood, fodder and other timber needs. Major funds of social forestry were used in protected and reserved forests, and the only benefit to the poor was in terms of employment; it is sad to observe that even here, in some instance it was found that minimum wages were not paid.

Lack of appropriate policies, regarding access of land to the poor for afforestation purposes, defunctional Acts and laws, which hinder rather than motivate people, resulted in vested interests controlling the social forestry programme. Instead of fuelwood and fodder, social forestry has largely provided raw materials to paper, pulp and building industry, bypassing the rural poor.

Social forestry and massive afforestation by the people cannot be a programme of a single government department. Social forestry must be a people’s movement. Schools, colleges, municipalities, government departments, and other identified institutions should share the responsibility to plant trees and maintain them either directly or through a contract system with local people.




Last Updated on Friday, 12 December 2014 05:26