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Social Forestry Essay


Social forestry programs in India have grown in importance and scale and now constitute a major element in India’s overall programme of rural development. From modest beginnings over a decade ago, there has been an almost exponential growth in the human and financial resources devoted to social forestry. During the sixth Five Year Plan period which covered the first half of the 1980s approximately Rs.10 billion (one thousand crore) or nearly US$ 1 billion was spent on social forestry activities. . The term social forestry is difficult to define precisely, but is generally understood to mean tree-growing (including associated products, e.g. bamboo, grasses, legumes) for the purpose of rural development. As social forestry has a rural development focus and is heavily dependent on the active participation of people, it is also known as “forestry for local community development” or “participatory forestry”.

An up to date and comprehensive discussion of these terms and the role of social forestry in rural development is to be found in Tree Growing by Rural People, FAO Forestry Paper, 64, 1985. Although a wide range of activities are included in social forestry, five main components can be distinguished in India. With variations, they are: 1. Farm forestry (tree growing on private land), 2. Farmer leasehold, 3. Village woodlots or community forestry, 4. Strip plantations alongside roads, canals, railways, etc., and 5. Reforestation or rehabilitation of degraded forest areas. Social forestry programs usually include one or more of these components.

There are also distinctions between and within these components depending on who owns the land on which the trees are being planted (e.g. private farmers, private industries, municipalities, forest departments, revenue departments, etc.) or who is responsible for the planting (e.g. farmers, villages, cooperatives, voluntary agencies, rural development departments, schools, etc.). Although these distinctions are sometimes blurred, all forms of social forestry are differentiated from commercial or territorial forestry by the 1

involvement of the rural population in decision-making, management and as beneficiaries. Farm forestry is tree planting undertaken by individual households on their own land or land they have rented from others. Tree seedlings may be planted in blocks (small plantations), on field boundaries or around homesteads. They may be intermixed with agricultural crops in several forms of agro forestry, or they may be planted alone on either agricultural land or uncultivable wastelands. Farmer leasehold or tree palta denotes a kind of farm forestry in which poor farmers or landless labourers are given leases to tracts of public land on which, with varying degrees of public support, they are constrained to grow trees. Village woodlots are small plantations on communal or government lands, operated by or on behalf of the village, for the benefit of the village as a whole. although there may be special arrangements to which provide preferential treatment to the under-privileged.

Strip plantations are relatively narrow areas along the sides of roads, canals, railways, and rivers, established by the Government (usually the Forest Department) with the intention of providing the benefits of forest products to local people and to serve as demonstration areas. The reforestation or rehabilitation of degraded forests refers to large plantations on public lands which have been severely degraded and which are often in environmentally critical areas. Such plantations mayor may not be considered a form of social forestry depending on whether or not there is significant involvement of local communities. The objectives of social forestry necessarily differ by component.

While all social forestry aims to increase tree production and reduce environmental degradation, the nature of the product, the type of management, and the distribution of benefits depend on the type of social forestry involved. Farm forestry is designed to help rural households better meet their own needs, whether through the direct production of fuel wood, fodder, and poles for their own use or through the production of a commercially marketable crop of poles or pulpwood. Tree patta forestry is similarly designed to increase the incomes of poor households through the sale of forest products and at the same time to help satisfy their need for fuel wood and fodder.

Village woodlots are intended to provide tree products, particularly fuel wood and fodder, for the community as well as (in many cases) income to the local village panchayat. Strip plantations and reforestation are designed to provide local communities with some of their fuel wood and fodder needs and to conserve and improve the environment. To a varying degree, each of these components has features which deliberately target benefits towards the poorest and most under-privileged 2

sections of society, including rural women who are frequently those hardest hit by the growing scarcity of tree products. However, these poverty-alleviation objectives and those related to production are often confused and this contributes to the widespread controversy surrounding the social, economic and environmental effects of social forestry. The massive social forestry programs being carried out in India are, at present, spearheaded by the National Wastelands Development Board specially created by the Prime Minister.

While the principle implementing agencies for these programs in each State are the Forest Departments, other government departments and private and voluntary agencies are increasingly being mobilized to meet national objectives. State Forest Departments have typically introduced new organizational structures to plan and implement social forestry activities and have appointed separate staff in the field and at headquarters. For forestry departments as much as for other departments and agencies, social forestry represents a departure from traditional activities and styles of working.

The Causes of Deforestation in Developing Countries

Developing nations are faced with a two-edged sword in the field of energy. On the one hand the rising price of oil has reduced the potential for fossil fuel energy and eroded foreign exchange reserves in oil-importing countries. At the same time deforestation may be causing increased prices or shortages of fuels such as fuel wood and charcoal. This paper reviews the most recent and sometimes controversial estimates of deforestation in developing countries and analyzes the relationship between deforestation and its probable causes. Three recent estimates of the rate of deforestation in developing countries between 1968 and 1978 are compared using rank order correlation.

Two of the estimates, of closed forest and moist tropical forest, are in significant agreement but differ from a third estimate that includes open woodland and regenerating forest. Agreement is strong among all three sources for a restricted group of countries. A cross-national analysis confirms the most frequently cited causes of deforestation. Deforestation from 1968–78 in 39 countries in Africa, Latin America, and Asia is significantly related to the rate of population growth over the period and to wood fuels production and wood exports in 1968; it is indirectly related to agricultural expansion and not related to the growth of per capita GNP. Results indicate that in the short term, deforestation is due to population growth and agricultural expansion, aggravated over the long term by wood harvesting for fuel and export. (Julia C. Allen)

Rethinking the Causes of Deforestation: Lessons from Economic Models This article, which synthesizes the results of more than 140 economic models analyzing the causes of tropical deforestation, raises significant doubts about many conventional hypotheses in the debate about deforestation. More roads, higher agricultural prices, lower wages, and a shortage of off-farm employment generally lead to more deforestation. How technical change, agricultural input prices, household income levels, and tenure security affect deforestation—if at all—is unknown. The role of macroeconomic factors such as population growth, poverty reduction, national income, economic growth, and foreign debt is also ambiguous. This review, however, finds that
policy reforms included in current economic liberalization and adjustment efforts may increase the pressure on forests. Although the boom in deforestation modelling has yielded new insights, weak methodology and poorquality data make the results of many models questionable. (Kaimowitz) 4


Deforestation is the removal of trees and other plants from forest areas more quickly than they can be replanted or regenerated naturally. It is a problem because of the parts that the trees have to play in stabilising the climate, atmospheric composition and soil structure. Drivers of Deforestation Drivers of deforestation vary from region to region-below are examples of human activity driving the destruction of the world’s natural forests. Agri-business- the largest driver of deforestation, in which vast areas of natural forest are burned or cleared in order to raise cattle or grow cash mono crops like palm oil and soy. Palm oil and soy are used in a wide array of products ranging from toothpaste, chocolate, animal feed and cosmetics.

Industrial logging for timber, pulp and wood fiber to create building materials and consumer products like office paper, tissue, books, magazines and packaging. Mining for metals such as gold, copper, or aluminum clears large tracts of natural forests and contaminate forest eco-systems with their runoff. Road Building through forests fragments the landscape, endangers wildlife habitat and provides access points for illegal loggers and other business operations that encroach into the forest. Hydroelectric dams flood upstream forests, leading to widespread forest loss, habitat degradation and displacement of forest communities and wildlife.

Effects of Deforestation

The Greenhouse Effect – During photosynthesis, carbon dioxide is taken in and oxygen is given out. Deforestation removes the carbon ‘sinks’, and coupled with the carbon dioxide emitted from the burning of fossil, the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increase. The carbon dioxide forms a blanket around the earth and traps heat from solar radiation. This is called the greenhouse effect, and causes the average temperature of the earth to
rise. If this continues, the polar ice caps could melt and cause flooding. Soil Erosion – The trees and shrubs in a forest cover the ground and protect the soil from the rain. Tree leaves intercept the rain fall, and shrubs and leaf litter protects the soil from water dripping off the leaves. With this protection removed, the rain falls directly onto the bare soil and erodes it.

The rain also leaches the soil of important nutrients, making it less fertile. Disruption of the Hydrological Cycle – Deforestation can effect the local climate of an area by reducing the evaporative cooling that takes place from the soil and plants. Because the amount of evapotranspiration has been reduced, the formation of clouds and therefore precipitation is also reduced. This threatens the existence of the remaining plants in the forest. Deforestation can also cause flooding. In forested areas, flood water is absorbed into the soil and taken up by the tree roots. The water is then transpired through aerial parts of the plant and into the atmosphere, where it forms clouds. In deforested areas, the flood water runs across the area and is not stopped by vegetation. The top layer of soil is eroded in this process and gets transported into rivers where it causes the level of silt to rise. This rise in the river level causes floods to occur more frequently.

Less evaporation also means that more of the sun’s energy is used to warm the surface and consequently the air above, leading to a rise in temperatures. Reduction in Biodiversity – Tropical rainforests consist of around half of the total amount of species of plants and animals on Earth. Without the rainforest as a habitat for these organisms, they will not be able to survive. Biologists are worried that a vast number of species will become extinct before they can be catalogued and examined. There are many species there that have provided us with cures for illnesses, and with the rainforests being destroyed, many other cures could be lost. The extinction of various species will also disrupt the food web they are in, possibly leading to the extinction of species which depended on them for survival.

Spreading of Disease – the mosquito, anopheles darlingi, which spreads malaria parasites, breeds in pools of water that are created in deforested land and on eroded land. Deforestation therefore favours a population explosion of this species.

After Deforestation

What happens after a forest is cut is very important in the regeneration of that forest. In a tropical rain forest, nearly all the life-sustaining nutrients are found in the plants and trees and not in the ground, like northern or temperate forests. When the plants and trees are cut down for agricultural purposes for the poor people, the tree trunks are usually burnt to release nutrients into the soil. Rain leaches the soil, and after around three years, the ground is no longer capable of supporting crops. The farmers will abandon this area and it will be left to grow back to a rainforest. As the soil is very low in nutrient content, the forest will grow back very slowly.

It may take up to fifty years to grow back. Shade agriculture, where a lot of the original forest trees are left to provide shade for shadeloving crops e.g. coffee and chocolate. When this type of farm is abandoned, the forest grows back very quickly (in around twenty years), as most of it was left unharmed in the first place. Intensive agricultural systems use a lot of pesticides and fertilisers. The chemicals kill a lot of living organisms in the area and weaken the ecosystem’s health. Plantations that use irrigation systems change the water balance of the land. After the abandonment of this kind of system, it can take many centuries for a forest to re-grow.


Afforestation is the process of planting trees, or sowing seeds, in a barren land devoid of any trees to create a forest. The term should not be confused with reforestation, which is the process of specifically planting native trees into a forest that has decreasing numbers of trees. While reforestation is increasing the number of trees of an existing forest, afforestation is the creation of a ‘new’ forest. Our Earth has been constantly trying to cope with the way in which human beings use natural resources, clear forest lands, cut trees, and contaminate the air, land, and water. Industrial revolution, population bursts, and pollution create permanent damage to the earth, and the result is global warming and climate change.

In such situations, something that can help extend the life of the planet and its living organisms is the increase of natural resources and decrease of exploitation of these resources. By planting trees and creating forests, many of the commercial needs of human beings are fulfilled, while not destroying what is left of the planet. Afforestation is, therefore, a practice that has been propagated by government and non-government agencies of many countries as a way to stop over-exploitation of nature. Importance The importance is immense in today’s scenario because it is mainly done for commercial purposes. In a natural forest or woodland, the trees are heterogeneous.

Owing to the sensitivity to over usage and slow growths, these forests cannot be used continuously for commercial purposes like wood products. The process of planting trees in empty lands helps promote the fast propagation of specific types of trees for the wood industry. With the increasing demand for wood fuels and building materials, this process helps to meet these demands without cutting down the natural forests. Deforestation can lead to the depletion of trees in water catchments and riverside zones. Afforestation ensures trees and plants that hold the soil in these sensitive areas remain protected.

Many countries have introduced the practice of planting trees along with agricultural crops in croplands. The benefits of this practice, which is called agroforestry, are:     It provides a supply of timber, fruit, and fodder for cattle apart from crop production It prevents soil erosion It enables better retention of water It shields crops from excessive wind and sun damage

In terms of the environmental benefits, planting trees is always beneficial whether it takes place in a barren land or is used as a method to regenerate a depleted forest. Trees help check atmospheric carbon dioxide; large scale afforestation can curb the problems caused due to burning of fossil fuels, industrialization and so forth.

Government Initiatives

National Afforestation and Eco-Development Board The National Afforestation and Eco-Development Board (NAEB), set up in August 1992,is responsible for promoting afforestation, tree planting, ecological restoration and ecodevelopment activities in the country, with special attention to the degraded forest areas and lands adjoining the forest areas, national parks, sanctuaries and other protected areas as well as the ecologically fragile areas like the Western Himalayas, Aravallis, Western Ghats, etc. The detailed role and functions of the NAEB are given below.

Under this scheme, the establishment and operational expenditure on the Eco

Task Force (ETF) Battalions raised by Ministry of Defence is reimbursed by Ministry of Environment and Forests while the inputs like sapling, fencing, etc. and also the professional and managerial guidance is provided by the State Forest Departments. In ETF battalions, the Ministry of Defence deploys its ex-servicemen, preferably from within the area of operation, whereas the nuclear core of the force is constituted of regular servicemen. Some of the ETF Battalions have undertaken successful eco-restoration of highly degraded sites, for example the limestone mining areas in the Mussoorie Hills.


1. Implementation of deforestation solutions is of topmost importance to humanity today. Most of the environmental problems we are facing are due to deforestation. Though, slowly but surely, the solutions that are being implemented are proving to be effective. Before talking about any solutions for deforestation, one must understand actually what it actually is, and how it is caused? The following article will create awareness about the causes, effects, and the possible solutions. Let us take a look at some facts. 2. Afforestation: Many countries in the world have started reforestation and forestry, and East Asian nations are leading in this regard. Many East Asian countries, including China, have successfully managed to reverse deforestation. 3. Legislation: By making suitable changes in the law, so that cutting trees in a forest area becomes a major crime, in my opinion, will not only lead to deforestation being controlled in a major way, but its flow may also be reversed.

4. Wildlife Sanctuaries: Sanctuaries are very important, not only to save wildlife, but to save trees as well. Sanctuaries go a long way in protecting all wildlife. 5. Cities: All cities, let alone new cities, have to be managed properly. Their expansion has to be curtailed or at least done in a systematic manner, so that there is enough green cover, and new trees are planted where ever possible. 6. Incentive to Corporates: Tax cuts should be granted to corporations, to get them actively interested in reforestation. 7. Commercial Forest Plantations: There can be special forest plantations for all the wood that is needed for the industry. This way the wood can be cut in a controlled and regulated environment.

8. Water Management: Improper water management affects deforestation in a big way. If the wildlife doesn’t have water, then the entire ecosystem will falter. The construction of new dams should be planned properly, so that any one area isn’t deprived of water, while another area has abundance of it. The above mentioned solutions should be looked into very seriously and implemented zealously. Already, the effects of deforestation have started to manifest themselves in a big way. If major steps towards afforestation are not taken, then even the great adaptability of human beings may not be enough to cope up with the harsh climate of the future 12

So according to the research article on social forestry issues in developing countries, problems faced by such countries are that in the short term, deforestation is due to population growth and agricultural expansion, aggravated over the long term by wood harvesting for fuel and export, increase in the standard of living. Solutions for such problem can be       Town planning to be done by city corporations in order to bring planned expansion without harming the green areas and environment as done in Thailand and Singapore. Companies should plant at least one tree for every tree it cuts down for commercial purpose. Incentives should be given to companies for following environment friendly techniques. Government should take initiative to protect forests. Rain water harvesting techniques to be used wherever possible. Vertical Development of cities should be encouraged as it will utilize less space.


Deforestation is an environmental problem that needs to be addressed. It is proven to be caused by a number of factors and should therefore be combated with a variety of methods, most of which are precautionary. However, it must be acknowledged that for our population to persist, natural resources must be used. This is why I believe that combinations of the conservationists’ methods coupled with an economic approach would give the best results. The methods that I have posed do not only rely on governments but coalitions of people and countries working together to better distribute the stresses of rebuilding and preserving the environment that belongs to us all. Conservation is exactly what it reads. I can only end by saying that we must all do our part.


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