Social Forestry and Environment
- Social forestry is closely linked with environmental amelioraction and socio-economic upliftment, the latter resulting in considerable improvement of the quality of life in rural and urban centres of human habitation.
- The relationship between ecosystem, social forestry and environment are so intimately interlinked as to preclude a simplistic understanding. Further, the major objectives of social forestry being both economic and environmental, the complexity is doubly compounded.
- To take the environment alone, the social forestry when extensively and successfully implemented can generate several positive environmental impacts like improvement in hydrological balance and production of water from watersheds, improvement of physical properties of soil favourable to improved infiltration, retention capacity and in depth percolation, alimentation of ground water table, reduction of surface run-off water and sedimentation of reservoirs, rivers, streams, etc., recycling of carbon, creation of favourable micro climate conditions conducive to higher food production, increased rainfall through transpiration, maintaining balance in oxygen, carbon dioxide, atmospheric temperature and relative humidity and Ozone layer.
- Social forestry envisages use of community lands, individual holdings and other public lands, denuded and degraded lands for producing the dependent The different components of the social forestry programme related to environmental regeneration are i) protection and afforestation of degraded forests in the vicinity of habitations; ii) creation of village woodlands on community lands and government waterlands; iii) block plantations in tank beds and foreshore lands; iv) agro forestry on marginal and sub-marginal farm lands; v) tree planting along home steads, field boundaries, diffused planting within the fields, particularly in the arid and semi-arid zones; vi) pasture and silvipasture development; vii) tree planting in urban and industrial areas for aesthetic purposes, purification of polluted air and control of noise pollution; viii) control of water and wind erosion by tree and shrub planting, planting of shelter belts, green belts and noise protection belts, etc., ix) strip plantations along roadsides, canal banks and rail lines.
- These programme if carried out effectively with active involvement of people could ensure that basic needs of the rural people could be met in respect of fuel, fodder, fibre, small timber and raw materials for cottage industry, etc., on one hand and ensure ecological security like protection against wind and water erosion polluted water and air, and availability of clean air on the other.
Social Forestry and Village Industries
- Forests can be a source of various cottage and village industries. Forest based cottage industries such as lac and tassar cultivation, bee-keeping, bidi-making, basket-making, rope-making, sericulture etc., can be developed in villages by the planting of trees which will provide gainful employment to the rural masses.
- Mulberry trees can be planted as compact blocks on village wastelands, or as strip planting along reclaimed river and stream beds, fringes of points and lakes, canal banks and village and farm roads or other sites not used for crop cultivation. This will stimulate the growth of sericulture and provide employment to the rural people.
- Lac production is also an important forest based industry with great growth potential. Lac is used for varnishes, printing, sealing wax, gramophone records etc. Resin is also a forest-based industry of great significance. It is collected from chirpine trees.
- Turpentine is also gathered from it. Myrobalans are also gathered from it. Myrobalans are also used in various industries such as tanning, drugs, textiles etc. Another forest based material of great significance is quinine produce from cinchona trees. Molasses and toddy prepared from the juice of palm trees is also an important cottage industry.
- In addition to these items, various rich forest products can be used in healthy growth of cottage industries such as, sandal wood, various oils, medicinal drugs, cane, mat, wood, honey etc., are available in different regions of the country.
- If these industries are developed in a systematic, methodical, planned and vigorous manner, then there is no doubt that unemployment in the rural areas can be tackled in an effective manner.
Imparting education in promoting social forestry
- Some of the important tasks of extension education strategy in promoting social forestry are:
- Training in management techniques and supply of seeds, seedligs and saplings to the farmers.
- Educating villagers to use renewable, inexhaustive and uncommercialised tree species and bushes for fuel.
- Importing knowledge in protective measures of fire and grazing.
- Educating farmers to replace uneconomical cattle with Jercy cows etc., Introducing stall-feeding to avoid damage to the young trees.
- Extension programmes for afforestation, viz; Van Mahotsava and tree planting day campaign, especially involving youth and children.
- Teaching farmers to put more area under horticulture and forestry than under agriculture.
- For harnessing forest potentials properly, all the aspects affecting peoples’s participation in the social forestry programme should be given immediate attention. Planned extension strategies or participatory approach, by involving NGOs and different state development departments will have to be followed.
Problem Areas of Social Forestry
- The social forestry programme comprises many areas which open new avenues for people’s participation in forestry management. The following problems are the main areas where participation of the people may be the critical factor.
(i) Stop illicit felling (ii) Control of grazing (iii) Managing Productive forests (iv) Avoiding encroachments of forest land (v) Protection from fire (vi) Protection of wildlife. (vii) Rehabilitation of degraded forests (viii) Soil and water conservation. (ix) Afforestation Programmes of the government.
- Forest conservation has become increasingly important particularly in the Himalayas and other hilly regions.
- Heavy erosion of top soil and consequent loss of land productivity has resulted from the systematic destruction of forests.
- The Forest Conservation Act, 1980 seeks to check indiscriminate deforestation, diversion of forest land to non-forest use, and to ensure planned development of forest resources.
- The policy also ensures that tribal rights and concessions in forest areas are given due consideration while introducing steps for conservation.
- Similarly, the requirements for grazing land are studied in detail and fodder needs are borne in mind.
- Other steps include eliminating contractors from forest working, prevention of shifting cultivation, encouraging the use of alternative like smokeless chulhas in place of firewood etc.
- Efforts are made to supply towns near forest areas with natural gas or L.P.G. to remove their dependence on firewood.
Importance of Vegetation
- Vegetation is the real wealth of a country as it forms a vital link in the chain of soil, water and climate.
- Vegetation broadly includes the entire plant life of an area of which a major segment consists of minute plants like algae, soil microbiota and lesser plants. It also includes a host of organisms that feed on dead organic matter.
- In any eco-system, therefore, vegetation is vitally important, as it consists of a closely integrated plant system with a close relationship with the physical environment.
- Soil development is related to vegetation. The organic substances from growing plants enrich the soil and in turn the character of the soil such as its water retention capacity, ability to reflect solar energy as light or heat etc. influence plant growth, affecting development of agriculture.
- A conservation strategy has to take into account the inter-dependence of different species in the eco-system.
Scientific vegetation management systems may be adopted as the system stress the importance of understanding vegetation as an integrated system, in which every species has a part to play, even though such part may not be clearly known at present.