‘Social Forestry‘ as a term was used in 1976 by the National Commission on Agriculture. The aim of the Commission was to use land of areas surrounding urban settlements that have been deforested by human activities. The government encouraged the participation of the public to cultivate surrounding land to meet their needs of food, fodder and fuel.
Social forestry makes use of fallow and unused land so that deeper forests that have been safeguarded so far are saved from exploitation. It involves the raising of fast-growing trees to meet the needs of fuelwood and fodder.
The village panchayats undertake this task with the help of local population to plant trees on common lands, like borders of canals, along the roads and on wastelands. Social forestry encourages development of gardens and landscapes. People benefit from such resource sharing and thus pressure on natural resources is reduced.
5 Types of Social Forestry
1. Farm Forestry:
Farm forestry is the management of trees for a specific purpose within a farming context. Typically these are timber plantations on private land. However, it can be applied to a range of enterprises utilizing different parts of the tree and managed in a variety of ways.
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Farm forestry can produce multiple benefits for the farm, the environment and the community. The benefits to the landholder include:
i. Shelter for stock, pasture and crops
ii. Additional and diversified earnings
iii. Improved living environments
iv. A buffer against the cyclical downturns in prices and in drought, frost and flood
v. Improvement and maintenance of soil and water health through water table reduction
vi. Increase in capital value of the plantation
The benefits to the environment and community are:
i. The creation of new jobs and industries
ii. Sustainable management of natural resources
iii. Increases in biodiversity
iv. It itself is an industry that easily fits around the activities of most agricultural enterprises
v. Prices of wood products are relatively stable compared to most agricultural products
vi. Long term productivity is not weather-dependent
This is the combination of agriculture and tree growing in order to produce both agricultural products and tree products on a commercial basis. The purpose of this scheme is to gain positive interactions between the two systems at both the paddock level and the enterprise level.
The two systems may be fully physically integrated, or treated as separate entities within a single business enterprise. It is therefore ideally suited to the landholder seeking to enter farm forestry on a small scale, whilst maintaining an existing agricultural enterprise.
Agro-forestry systems can be advantageous over conventional agricultural and forest production methods through increased productivity, economic benefits, social outcomes and the ecological goods and services provided.
Biodiversity in agro-forestry systems is typically higher than in conventional agricultural systems. Agro-forestry incorporates at least several plant species into a given land area and creates a more complex habitat that can support a wider variety of birds, insects, and other animals. Agro-forestry also has the potential to help reduce climate change since trees take up and store carbon at a faster rate than crop plants.
3. Extension Forestry:
Planting of trees on the sides of roads, canals and railways, along with planting on wastelands is known as ‘extension’ forestry. Extension forestry helps in increasing the boundaries of forests. Under this project, there has been creation of forests on the village common lands, government wastelands and panchayat lands.
Schemes for afforesting degraded government forests that are close to villages are being carried out all over the country.
4. Community Forestry:
Community forestry is a village-level forestry activity, decided on collectively and implemented on communal land, where local populations participate in the planning, establishing, managing and harvesting of forest crops, and so receive a major proportion of the socio-economic and ecological benefits from the forest.
Community forestry is a process of increasing the involvement of and reward for local people, of seeking balance between outside and community interests and of increasing local responsibility for the management of the forest resource. Also, like sustainable development, community forestry should be a learning experience for all involved parties.
5. Silviculture or Scientific Forestry:
Silviculture is the art and science of controlling the establishment, growth, composition, health, and quality of forests to meet diverse needs and values of the many landowners, societies and cultures over all the parts of the globe that are covered by dry land. Silviculture lays great stress on replacement and replanting of new crops and trees.
The objectives of silviculture are as follows:
i. Deriving environmental benefits, regulating afforestation, ensuring soil conservation
ii. Raising species of more economic value and introduction of exotics
iii. Production of plants of high quality timber species
iv. Increasing production per unit area
v. Reduction of rotation period
vi. Afforestation of blank areas
vii. Creation of plantations
viii. Increasing production of fuels and fodder quality
ix. Increasing raw materials for forest based industries
x. Increasing employment potential