Social forestry means the management and protection of forests and aforestation on barren lands with the purpose of helping in the environmental, social and rural development.
It’s primary objective is not profit or ecology. It has social aspects that local population should be benefited such as minor forest products, livelihood security, fodder, handicraft, cottage industry. Social forestry is supposed to reduce the burden of women who have to walk miles to get firewood with girl child. Till girl child is engaged this work, education can’t be promoted.
Idea was suggested in 1952 policy but became popular in 1970s through social forestry movement. The National Commission on Agriculture (1976) has classified social forestry into three categories: urban forestry, rural forestry and farm forestry.
Strategy: Encouraging forest plantations in common lands, waste lands, along road, railways, around water bodies and any other land which can be diverted for tree plantation. Government encouraged free distribution of saplings of usufruct species so that fruits, timber, fodder can be found. Government also extended incentives so that the planted saplings would be cared for & maintained.
Indirect benefits of social forestry:
• The program was supposed to diversify non-farm income option or non-crop income options for poor farmers and landless labourers.
• It was also designed to ensure better landuse where wasteland could be encouraged into forestry plantation.
• The program was supposed to be one of the initiatives under afforestation scheme to meet the policy target for having 33% of land under forest.
• Social forestry became a part of wasteland development program to encourage forestry landuse on slopes and upstreams.
Shortcoming of the program:
Although social forestry as a concept was revolutionary but in India it was not of much success primarily because of wrong implementation.
• Under the incentive given to farmers and villagers to encourage social forestry, many farmers tend to divert agriculture land into forest. This compromises agriculture prospects and food security.
• Although the program suggested usufruct species but because of lack of ecological understanding and lack of specific directives most of the plantations opted for eucalyptus.
• Fast growing species with no natural enemy
• Not natural fodder
• Burns very fast so can’t be used as firewood
• Rasin flammable causes forest fires
• Resulted in depletion of ground water
Hence it did not generate any product of social relevance and turned up as ecological disaster.
Because of lack of foresight the biggest success of social forestry was under farm forestry where states like Gujrat and Karnatak who performed best because of profit oriented farm forestry.
Problems of farm forestry:
• Replaces regular crops which impacts food security
• It actually forces eviction of farmers because farm forestry is not labour intensive unlike crop based agriculture. So instead of supporting livelihood, farm forestry compromises livelihood of poor farmers and landless labourers.
• Farm forestry is profit oriented which was not the purpose of social forestry.
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