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.
1. Social Forestry in...