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Social Forestry

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In ancient times, the population was small and there was enough in the forests for satisfying everyone’s needs. As the population increased, more and more forest areas were destroyed for habitation, agriculture, fuel, timber, dams and industrial complexes. Shifting cultivation is still a practice responsible for forest clearance in the tribal areas Orissa, Madhya Pradesh and North-Eastern Hill Regions. Needless to say that the forest-based industries play a major role in the forest destruction, this takes place at an average rate of 1.5 million hectares per year. The first Indian Forest Act drafted in 1865 and the subsequent Acts and policies could not improve the deteriorating forest situation. Even after Independence, the forest policy of 1952 and Forest Bill of 1988 was as ineffective as the earlier ones.

According to the government sources the forest covers in India is now only 22% of the total geographical area of 329 million hectares as against the 33.35 the minimum requirement prescribed by the government. Many of the forest are in highly degraded condition and according to the National Remote Sensing Agency, forest in India amount to only 11% of the total geographical area. Due to the increasing population and continuous dwindling of forest areas, acute shortage of major and minor forest products is being experienced. Tribal’s and the rural poor are the worst hit victims of this shortage as they depend on forests for their basic requirements such as food, fuel, fodder, and small timber and for supplementary income. Latest forest policies hardly permit the people to enter the forest for collecting the above-mentioned materials, and tribals and rural poor people are deprived of even their livelihood. Social forestry was proposed as a solution to this problem.

What is social Forestry?
Mahatma Gandhi enunciated the concept of social forestry in a comprehensive form for the first time. According to him, a village must be established in such a way that the villagers can collect their requirements such as fuel wood, fodder, materials of thatch and bamboo in and around the village. The term “Social Forestry” denotes any tree plantation, undertaken on private or common land, outside the jurisdiction of the India Forest Department to provide people their basic requirements, which they used to collect from forests. It is an activity designed for the benefit of the villagers in general and the poor and the disadvantaged among them in particular. Social forestry is a programmed “of the people by the people and for the people.” Hence, strictly speaking, it refers to a collective management and utilization of under or unutilized common land to meet the requirements of the local people especially by the underprivileged.

Objectives of Social Forestry
* To fulfill the basic requirements such as fuel, fodder, small timber, supplementary food and income from surplus forest products, * To provide employment opportunities and to increase family income considerable for alleviating poverty, * To tap the dormant energies and skills of the villagers for their own development by enabling them to manage their own natural resources, * To popularize economic tree farming along with crop farming, * To integrate economic gains in the distribution of other benefits to the socially and economically poor in a village, * To organize them in their struggle for socio- economic development, * To conserve soil and water and to maintain ecological balance by enhancing biomass generation, * To provide congenial environment to the tribal and to help them to preserve their cultural identity as their life and culture is intimately related to forest. * To reduce encroachment on the existing forests,

* To inculcate the value of village level self-sufficiency and self management in the production as well as distribution of forest products with social justice.

Literature Review
1. Social Forestry in Environmentally Degraded Regions of India: Case study of the Mayurakshi Basin.
Social Forestry (SF) schemes have been implemented in India since the 1980s to combat deforestation, increase the supply of fuel-wood and fodder, and provide minor forest products for the rural population. The relevance of such Schemes in the Mayurakshi River Basin is basically due to its environmentally degraded state. Latterly the Basin has been brought under the Mayurakshi River Valley Project, but unless measures are undertaken to mitigate problems of soil erosion, the efficiency of the Project will be hampered.

Highlights from the literature:
Analysis: Social forestry can play a vital role in the reclamation of degraded lands, conservation of soil and moisture, improvement of agricultural production and prevention of environmental deterioration. But unless the measures are not taken or implemented properly the purpose of the entire project might not give the desired results even after hardship of many years.

2. Predicting Potential Density and Basal Area Development in the Social Forestry Plantations of Acacia nilotica in Gujarat State of India
Growth modelling is an important and effective tool for evaluating the effects of a particular management action on the future development of a forest ecosystem. However, such necessary growth models are not available for many indigenous tree species in India. Acacia nilotica is an important multipurpose tree species found in India and growth models are required for proper management of the species in the region. This paper presents equations for estimating potential stand density and predicting basal area in pure even-aged stands of A. nilotica in Gujarat State of India. Although no thinning was suggested, decrease in the number of trees in the stands was observed because of mortality due to overcrowding and some biotic factors. Relationships between quadratic mean diameter and stems per hectare were developed, which was used to establish the limiting density line. Eight different stand level models, belonging to the path invariant algebraic difference form of a non-linear growth function, were compared for projecting basal area. They can be used to predict future basal area as a function of stand variables like dominant height and stem number per hectare and are crucial for evaluating different treatment options.

Highlights from the literature:
Analysis: From the above abstract we can analyze that absence of comprehensive techniques for growing such plants successfully and
economically, optimum spacing of trees, subsequent management and harvesting practices etc. is a major hurdle for social forestry.

3. Investing in Natural Capital: A Financial Assessment of Social Forestry in Northern India
This study quantifies the tangible, economic benefits of a nongovernmental organization’s social forestry project to local people and analyzes the potential return from this investment in natural capital. The analysis was conducted in the Kumaun hill region of Uttaranchal, India, using participatory rapid appraisal, household survey, avoided cost method, and present value investment analysis. The annual value (based on the ecosystem service of goods provision) of the forest resource to local people was estimated at 903,337 rupees, and the total return on 8 years of investment through 2021 was projected to be 883%. Quantitative and qualitative results show that social forestry is a solid investment in natural and human capital.

Highlights from the literature:
Discussion: This case this study serves as one example of how ecosystem service valuation can be employed to achieve conservation and development goals.

4. National Social Forestry Project in India (financed by the World Bank)
In India, social forestry programmes began on a large scale only in 1974 in response to the interim report of the National Commission on Agriculture. Social forestry was originally conceived by the Indian government as a response to the forestry crisis and to accelerating deforestation in India. As a consequence, the original objectives of social forestry projects including those financed by the World Bank were to produce fodder, fuel wood, small timber, fruits, and minor forest produce in fenced plantations using fast growing species. In 1984, the World Bank approved the India National Social Forestry project for $165 million. A review of the project document reveals the main objectives as follows: * To increase production of fuel wood, small timber, poles and fodder. * To increase rural employment, farmer’s incomes and opportunities for participation by landless people * To increase the forest cover

* To strengthen forestry institutions
The objectives show that emphasis is mostly on resource creation through planting fast-growing tree species on privately owned large farms and wastelands. But the products from social forestry plantations were found to have more value for paper and pulp industries and commercial institutions, rather than meeting biomass needs to local people. For example, Eucalyptus, which was the most planted species in the NSFP, was inappropriate in meeting the project’s objectives because of its lack of fodder value and ineffectiveness in soil building. Besides, it was inappropriately used as a mono crop in semi-arid areas where competition for water and the need for soil enhancing treatments are high. Several studies expressed that widespread planting of eucalyptus in ecologically inappropriate arid areas has boomeranged with degradation of soils and water tables.

Highlights from the literature:
Analysis: social forestry projects have come under increasing criticism because they have failed to actively involve the local communities and rural poor, who are supposedly the main beneficiaries. Private farmlands, wastelands and community lands have been converted for commercial uses, and in a number of cases the access of poorer rural populations to fodder, fuel wood and other forest products has actually been reduced. The lack of participation of local communities in project design and implementation, and over reliance on industry-biased State forestry departments appear to be the main causes of the shortcomings.

Problems highlighted in the literature:-

* Lack of involvement of people
* Absence of requirement and resource
* Lack of awareness
* Improper method of planting
* Lack of technical education
* Lack of a suitable administrative system
* Lack of soil and water conservation

* A remunerative support price for tree corps grown by beneficiaries, instead the middlemen take away most of the profit. * Rules and regulations regarding the harvesting, transport and marketing have to be simplified so as to eliminate hurdles in obtaining permission. For example, sandalwood production in Karnataka has been steadily decreasing despite the increasing demand. * Strong land acquisition rules required so that the rich and the influential people cannot encroach and take possession of most of social forestry plantations for the commercial purposes and exploitation of poor’s. * Better and new ideas about social forestry should flow, and there should be some rating and feedback system for every project undertaken. * Availability of all the required seeds and proper distribution system of social forestry products.

A well implemented and managed social forestry program can meet the requirements of a village. Social forestry projects are meant to bring about social change to climate economic disparity and to ensure more equitable distribution of income and make people self reliant and independent. Social forestry can play an important role in the village and rural development. Further, it can maintain the ecological balance; prevent degradation of environment such as soil erosion and water depletion.

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