The implementation and progress of social forestry programme in different states across the country are presented below:
India was one of the first countries to have launched social forestry. In 1950, the festival of tree planting was instituted by the Central Government as an annual feature. Since then, rapid developments have taken in the field of social forestry. The National Forest Policy (1952) strengthened the emphasis to be laid on these programmes.
Gujarat was the first state in India to set up a separate social forestry wing in its forest department in 1970. Since then, it continues to lead the field in social forestry, not only in India, but also in the entire S.E. Asian regions. In the beginning, efforts were concentrated towards raising trees along canal banks, railway line strips and roads.
Fast growing species were raised by the forest department in a number of rows, having a rotation of 7 to 10 years. In 1980, this system was changed with a 50: 50 partnership arrangement with the local Panchayats. By the end of 1982, about 29,500 ha equivalent strip plantation had been raised in the state along railway line strips, canal banks and roadsides.
Supervised wood lots scheme was introduced in the year 1974 in which the forest department, in collaboration with the local Panchayats, raised 4 hectare woodlots in different villages of fuel wood, fodder and fruit species on the community lands. In return, the villagers were allowed for collecting fuel, fodder and fruit in addition to a 50:50 share of the profit when the trees were harvested.
By the end of 1982, such woodlots had been established in 4,000 of the total 20,000 villages of the State, with a total area of 28,000 ha. Another programme, known as the village self-help scheme was launched in 1980. The intention of this programme was that the forest department was to distribute free seedlings and provide technical advice to the people for raising trees on their own lands.
A farm forest farming project was launched in 1972, under which farmers were provided seedlings free of cost, for raising trees as commercial crops on their land. This project evoked immediate response, so much so that, people raising cotton on the fertile black cotton soil took to commercial farm forestry in a big way.
They found that the return under this scheme was more and botheration lesser. Mr. Vithal bhai Patel of Vatwa farm near Ahmedabad a large farmer had switched over from cotton growing to tree farming. He maintains his own nursery and is earning huge profits since in 1972.
2. Tamil Nadu:
The state forest department launched way back in 1956. Afforestation of wastelands was started in 1960 mainly with tank plantations.
A new social forestry project combining all the previous farm and community forestry programmes was embarked upon in 1981, funded by the Swedish International Development Authority (SIDA) with the following main programmes:
i. Farm forestry over a wide area
ii. Tree raising for family uses
iii. Tree raising on communal or common lands
iv. Strip plantations along roads, railway lines and canals
v. Creation of a network of fuel-fodder plantations
The farm forestry scheme consists of two components: an incentive scheme aimed at poor farmers and an extension scheme for larger farms in which seedlings are issued at cost price. Up to the end of 1983, total of approximately 10 million seedlings had been distributed under these two schemes.
Some reservations have however, been expressed about the practicability of the incentive scheme because of the administrative problems of checking survival rates and making small payments to a large number of farmers dispersed over a wide area.
3. West Bengal:
In 1981, a World Bank aided project was launched in the State. West Bengal has the lowest per capita forest area (0.02 ha) and average population density is 610 persons per km2.
The following targets have been set to be achieved by 1987:
i. 20,000 ha of strip plantations along roads, canals and railway lines.
ii. 1,500 ha of degraded forest land to be rehabilitated.
iii. 6,000 ha of village woodlots to be created for supply of fuel wood and fodder.
iv. Raising of as many state owned wasteland plantations by allotting small plots to landless farmers.
Large tracts of degraded land which was previously under forests occur in the south west corner of the State. Soil conditions are very poor and the area is characterized by chronic drought conditions. Efforts are being made for the rehabilitation of such lands under social forestry programmes. In east Midnapore district, the State government is allotting plots of 0.4 ha of waste land to the landless people.
Main species which are being raised in this area are Acacia auriculiformis and Eucalyptus tereticornis. Pit digging is done by the farmers during the dry season, so that it does not interfere with their main occupation as agricultural labourers.
Free seedlings are supplied by the forest department along with a small quantity of fertilizer. A cash incentive of up to Rs. 220 is also given on basis of the survival per cent after the second and third years. The farmer gets bulk of the return on maturity of the trees.
4. Uttar Pradesh:
Social forestry was launched in a big way, in parts of eastern U.P. during the late sixties and early seventies. In 1979, a programme was launched with the aim of providing 45,000 ha of fuel and fodder forests in Land along roads, railway lines and canal banks; Common lands or Civil Soyam lands; and Degraded forest lands on which villagers enjoy certain rights such as fuel wood and fodder collection.
The main burden of making this programme a success was entrusted to the forest department. It was intended to make this project a model for demonstration. Commercial farm forestry was encouraged in Uttar Pradesh on the cost-price seedlings system being followed in Gujarat.
This project met with astounding success particularly in western U.P. where the average size of holdings is larger and the people are economically more comfortable. By the end of 1982-83, a total of 150 million seedlings were distributed under this scheme which amounted to about 30 times the planned target. Other social forestry, projects, particularly those involving road, railway line and canal bank strip planting have also met with similar success in the state.
Though Odisha has 40 per cent of land area under forests, their distribution is unsatisfactory. The entire coastal tract and large pockets of inland have inadequate forests. Supply of forest materials to the populace in these areas is difficult and people here prefer to burn cow dung.
Because of poor railway system, the transport of forest produces from distant forests to these scarcity pockets in uneconomical. Large scale afforestation of waste lands and denuded hill slopes will be very expensive. Farm forestry offers itself as a solution but cannot be practiced extensively in conventional form as practically no one owns a sizeable compact farm land.
People in general have no idea of farm forests and Government should set up at least one demonstration farm forest in each district and publicize its benefits. Planting for deep rooted trees with light foliage such as babul should be encouraged. In inland areas, bamboos and fast growing trees can be planted in backyards. It has been extensively adopted by people in coastal areas.
Shelterbelts are not necessary in Odisha conditions except near the sea. Casuarina plantations in the sand dunes throughout the length of Orissa’s coastline have already been planted and headway has been made to establish government plantation. In Ganjam, people themselves have planted sand dunes extensively with Casuarina and coconut. Collective farming will assist establishment of farm forests and land legislation is therefore necessary.
6. Punjab and Haryana:
Punjab and Haryana occupy one of the most fertile areas of India. They are considered to be the food basket of the country.
Social forestry has made much progress in these two states with the following main thrusts:
i. Raising plantation along roads, railway lines and canal banks. This work was carried out in an extensive scale during the seventies and today almost all the strips along roads and canals have been brought under social forestry plantations. The work of afforestation along railway line strips is also considerable progress.
ii. Tree plantation along boundaries of fields and wastelands with a view to meet the local demand for fuel wood and fodder. Ample land is available along field boundaries for raising trees, so that the local demand can be met.
iii. Raising trees on agricultural land for commercial purposes. The idea of changing over from agricultural crops to forestry crops seems to have caught on in both these states in a big way.
Thousands of marginal and big farmers have stopped raising agricultural crops and are now growing forestry crops with a 5 to 7 years rotation. They sell wood to the paper-pulp mills or match factories. Eucalyptus and Poplars are favorite species for commercial farm forestry in these states. In Siwalik foothill belt in the north (mainly Hoshiarpur & Ambala districts) along the Himachal Pradesh border, social forestry schemes have somewhat different objects;
i. Afforesting bare hills and improving the existing stock.
ii. Preventing excessive runoff and increasing percolation of water into the soil, thereby raising the ground water table.
iii. Training of hitherto uncontrolled torrential beds in order to prevent them from damaging cultivated fields and endangering the existence of settlements, roads, canal, etc.
iv. Increasing the economic value of these areas by producing for local use (and also for commercial use wherever possible) the following forest product: timber, fuel wood, fodder, resin, katha, etc.
v. Improving the aesthetic and recreational value of these areas and also helping to ameliorate the environmental conditions.
Rajasthan comprises mainly of a semiarid and arid tract and a part of which is occupied by Rajasthan desert. The climate is characterized by extremes and large variations of annual and diurnal temperature, low and erratic rainfall and extreme aridity.
Largely due to unwise exploitation of natural resources, a peculiar pattern of soil erosion and desert formation have been set up and it is believed that the desert is advancing at a very fast rate, engulfing hundreds of hectares of land in the process. Thus, one of the main measures for arresting the march of the desert is to increase the forest area.
Social forestry has a prominent role to play under peculiar conditions of advancing of the desert, chronic shortage of fuel and fodder, dearth of forest resources and conditions of severe environmental degradation.
For this, the following programmes are being taken up:
i. Shelterbelts and wind breaks, rows of trees along field boundaries are being raised to check the spreading desert.
ii. Afforestation of strips along roads, railway lines and canals (mainly the Rajasthan canal).
iii. Fuel and fodder plantations are being raised on village waste lands and in fact, wherever suitable site is available.
8. Madhya Pradesh:
In 1955 and 1956, the fuel cum fodder reserve at Pacheda over an area of 288 acres was established. Following the example of Pacheda, it has been proposed to raise similar fuel cum fodder reserves in other part of the Chhattisgarh plains.
The existing position about this subject in the other regions of the state may be considered as practically of no value except that in the Madhya Bharat region, a fairly considerable and creditable work of afforesting the ravines of Chambal and its tributaries has been achieved since 1924.
The total area thus afforestated is about more than 9,000 acres and the work is still progressing at a rapid pace. This work is important not only as an anti-erosion measure, but it has aided in raising the standard of rural economy of the neighboring villages.
9. Himachal Pradesh:
Himachal Pradesh is a mountainous state, occurring in the western Himalaya. There is a high level of biotic pressure on the forests mainly in the form of removal of fuel wood, fodder, timber for house construction and wood for making packing cases. Social forestry projects have been going on in the state for quite some time.
The Indo-German Dhauladhar Project was launched in 1980 in Palampur sub division of Kangra district. This project is perhaps, one of the most successful integrated social forestry projects in north India and the project has a total outlay of Rs. 10.5 crores of which Rs. 65 crore is provided by the Federal Republic of Germany.
The following are the main thrust areas of this project:
i. Creation of village woodlots to serve as fuel and fodder reserves.
ii. Providing seedlings for farm forestry purposes to the villagers.
iii. Introducing energy conservation measures such as a smokeless Dhauladhar Chula which has 50 per cent more efficiency.
Most of the unutilized Govt. waste land, VGRS & PGRS have been identified and brought under social forestry plantation with the objective to provide fuel wood, fodder, fruits, small timber for construction of huts and agricultural implements to the rural people. Social forestry wing of Assam has also given full importance to support the traditional cottage industry.
For example, to support the “Eari & Muga” silk industry in the rural areas, some plantations have been taken up extensively. The plantations raised under social forestry schemes are approximately one lakh hectares. Under Extension Forestry, road side parks and recreation centres have been created to improve the quality of life of the people. Until now, 32 such recreation parks have been created.
Under social forestry wing during 2007-08, an area of 67.45 ha with 2,29,33,000 seedlings were raised with State Govt. fund for Rs.183.04 lakh under SFG, TSP and SCCP schemes. Maintenance was done for covering an area of 2,133 ha and 20 lakh Agar and 10 lakh Maha Neem seedlings are being raised in the nurseries in Assam.
With the Central Govt, fund under NAP scheme for Rs.2,366.35 lakh, an area of 19,666 ha plantation was done through 550 of JFMCs under 28 FDAs in Assam which includes artificial regeneration, natural regeneration, bamboo plantation and medicinal & aromatic plantation.
Support for Social Forestry:
National Commission of Agriculture (NCA), World Bank, Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) provide support for social forestry development. In 1956, social forestry started in Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh in the riverbank.
They adopted Eucalyptus species and Acacia nilotica. Gujarat was the first state where forest department also collaborated in social forestry. In the 6th five year plan, 78 per cent of the total budget allocated for state forest department was spent on social forestry programme. By 7th five year plan (1985-90), Wasteland Development Project through social forestry was implemented in India.