Trees are valuable, and previously looked upon as an inexhaustible, resource of timber and non-timber products. However, people came to realize that the existing stock of trees would last only for a fixed duration, unless commensurate efforts are made to replace the harvested ones through continuing reforestation. Thus emerged the concept of planting trees outside forests on community lands, private lands and in urban areas to meet the needs of society. The environmental services provided by trees outside forests, in rural and urban areas, include protection of soil and water resources, conservation of biological diversity, support to agricultural productivity and sustainability, buffering of desertification and resource degradation processes in arid and semi-arid zones, carbon sequestration, amenity and recreation, and maintenance and improvement of sustained livelihoods.
Cities and human settlements face several environmental problems such as shortage of water, air pollution and sewage management. Deforestation and changes in land use in ever-widening circles around cities are particularly accentuated in arid and semi-arid zones. Indeed, consumption patterns and basic needs of the urban population for products such as fuelwood and construction material are important causes of forest and land degradation. This results in the degradation of soil fertility and the diminution of the tree cover, and contributes to the erosion of the diverse gene pool. The negative impact of forest resource degradation on the nutrition and livelihood of poor urban dwellers is often overlooked in urban development.
Despite all these factors, an inventory and operational management plans for TOF generally is lacking. Such a gap is especially significant when India is an agricultural country where vast stretches of land are capable of supporting a variety of plant species. This three-day workshop was an attempt to bring together specialists with diverse backgrounds to formulate a plan to assess the potential of TOF, generate information and raise awareness of TOF as a valuable resource. Based on various studies, IIFM has tried to provide a platform for the exchange of ideas and fruitful consultation for the assessment of TOF to ensure a systematic documentation and policy framework for TOF and their management. A proposed pilot study involving remote sensing technique and ground survey is the best option for carrying out a national assessment of TOF. Large-scale assessments can be conducted based on the pilot study once the results are tested and the methodology is modified to suit local conditions.