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 ,with the aim of taking the pressure off currently existing forests by planting trees on all unused and barren land.
Social forestry programme
Government is trying to increase 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. social forestry scheme was initiated in India to increase fuel availability in rural areas and to prevent soil erosion.
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 pressure on traditional forest areas. 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 is now being 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.
Need of social forestry
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.
Social forestry scheme can be categorized into groups of ;
• Farm forestry
• Community forestry
• Extension forestry
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:
1. Improve the environment for protecting agriculture from adverse climatic factors,
2. Increase the supply of wood fuel for domestic use, small timber for rural housing, fodder for livestock, and minor forest produce for local industries,
3. Increase the natural beauty of the landscape; create recreational forests for the benefit of rural and urban population,
4. Provide jobs for unskilled workers and
5. Land rehabilitation
6. 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.
Author: KANCHAN SHARMA