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Chapter IX. Involvement of local people

1. Introduction
2. Constraints and conditions for people's involvement
3. Highlights of section

1. Introduction

In the arid zones of the world, products derived from the forests provide essential goods and services, such as fuel for cooking and heating, construction material for housing, forage for cattle, and nanwoody products. The forest itself helps to provide clean water and, in many areas, provides shade from a burning sun. In many instances, all these benefits have been taken for granted. However, due to increasing population pressures and lack of appropriate forest management strategies, these benefits are no longer readily available. Increasing pressures on the forests for these and other benefits have resulted in degradation of the vegetative resources and impoverishment of the land. Ultimately, the basic needs of people may no longer be satisfied. The situation can be countered by improved management of natural forests or by establishing forest plantations. But, to do so, people must participate in the design, implementation, and follow-up of these activities. To mobilize this participation, a number of constraining factors have to be understood.

A central aim of forestry programmes is to help people become self-reliant. However, these programmes will not succeed unless they reflect the people's own interpretation of their needs, aspirations, and problems. Therefore, forestry must be forestry for the people and, importantly, involve the people.

2. Constraints and conditions for people's involvement

Some of the factors to be taken into account in analyzing the place of forestry in a rural economy are summarized in Table 9.1. These factors and some possible responses are discussed more fully below.

2.1 Competition for land

Table 9.1 - Factors to be taken into account in analyzing the place of forestry in a rural economy


Possible Responses

Competition for land (trees and shrubs are a less intensive use of land than crops)

- Competition for forest land

- Intercrop trees and crops

- Allocate forest land rationally between trees and crops

- Improve non-food benefits to forest communities (forest-food industries employment, non-woody product income, social infrastructure, etc.)

- Competition for crop-grazing land to afforest

- Plant trees on roadsides, river banks, field boundaries, and other unused lands; areas marginal for crop production; on erodable areas unsuitable for crop production or grazing

- Improve productivity on the more arable areas to release land for tree growing

- Plant multi-purpose tree and shrub species or mixture of species to increase productivity

- Intercrop trees and shrubs with other crops or combine with grazing

- Introduce additional source of income (for example, beekeeping)

Timescale of forestry (delayed returns from tree or shrub growing)

- Output from trees or shrubs will not meet immediate needs

- Plant multi-purpose tree and shrub species to give some early returns

- Provide financial support during the establishment periods; low-interest loans, grants, subsidies, paid employment, etc.

- Introduce or expand complementary non forestry sources of income

- Risk that the producer will not benefit

- Ensure security of tenure of land used for tree or shrub crop

Spatial distribution of benefits from forestry programmes

- Benefits from protection forests or from wood production may accrue, in part, outside of the community

- Provide compensation for those benefits foregone or inputs provided by the community, which generate benefits elsewhere

Seasonal shortage of labour

- Adopt forestry practices which do not compete with peak demands for labour inputs

Lack of a tradition in forestry (unfamiliarity with the necessary techniques, lack of understanding of cause and effect, behavioral patterns harmful or unfavorable to forestry practices)

- Provision of guidance and support through extension services; education of the people, technical advice and technical inputs, grass-roots training

- Demonstration projects

Competition for land occurs where population pressure is heavy and the land is needed for food production. Such type of competition may be avoided by taking up unused areas or by intercropping trees and crops.

Where the need to maintain land under tree cover is evident, such as on poor steep slopes, forestry gives way to the more urgent imperative of land for food production. A clear condition for inserting forestry into such a situation is that it be accompanied by measures to provide the farmer or the community with alternative ways of generating the crop or livestock production, or the income foregone by placing part of the land under trees.

Introducing trees and shrubs into intensive land-use patterns can be achieved through various forms of intercropping, to bring about multiple use of the land. The planting area may be intercropped with grass to provide fodder for stall-feeding animals. Fodder in the form of leaves from suitable trees is an important component of multiple use. Equally important are the measures to improve agricultural crop productivity on the flatter and more arable areas, and to improve other parts of the communities' economy and their physical and social infrastructures to enable them to divert land to tree and shrub cover.

The whole question of land use is usually confused by the lack of information about land capabilities and about the factors needed for land-use planning. Unfortunately, the boundaries between land which can support sustained agricultural cropping and land which needs to be devoted periodically or permanently to forest cover are seldom known.

2.2 The timescale of forestry

In many cases, attachment to a particular technique of food production is reinforced by considerations derived from the timescale of forestry. Historically, many rural populations have developed a dependence upon outputs of the forest, because the latter existed as an abundant available local natural resource which could be utilized almost at will. As long as the wood products remained abundant, this process of exploitation could take place without regard to the relatively long time involved in producing wood of usable sizes. However, once the point is reached where wood can be supplied only by growing it, the timeframe involved can become an important limiting factor.

Frequently, the timescale of forestry is in conflict with the priorities of the rural people; logically, these priorities are focused on meeting basic present needs. Present needs are imperative, particularly in subsistence situations. Land, labour, and other resources which could be devoted to providing the food, fuel, and income needed today cannot easily be diverted to the production of wood, which will be available only several or many years into the future.

Forestry can continue to exist or be introduced only if it allows the present needs of the people involved to be met. If local tree and shrub cover still exists, it may be possible to provide the same level of production in a less destructive way. In some areas, for example, destructive local cutting of the forest may be halted and reversed by concentrating the cut in designated areas and at designated times, and protecting the rest of the area so that natural regeneration can occur. In other areas, forestry may be introduced in conjunction with other activities which secure income to meet the needs of the farmer until his trees yield products.

2.3 The spatial distribution of benefits

Considerations of the spatial distribution of forest benefits are important. To the farmer, the forest is land upon which to cultivate his food and cash crops, a source of fuel and building materials, and a source of fodder and shade. The fact that the trees and shrubs that are utilized could provide the raw material for an economically-important industry elsewhere is of little relevance to him. To expect the farmer to adapt his way of life to accommodate the interests of others is unrealistic. Therefore, the build-up of more stable forest crop/tree systems will only occur when the community, in some way, benefits in appropriate measure from any change in the pattern of natural resources use.

The core of the problem for rural people is usually that they derive insufficient benefits from the forest; in general, this is attributable to conventional forest management objectives and administrative practices, such as an orientation of natural resources towards conservation, wood production, revenue collection, and regulation through punitive legislation and regulation. Consequently, the task of a forester is to engage the people more fully, positively, and beneficially in management, utilization, and protection; this may take the form of greater participation by the people in forest work, development of the income potential of miscellaneous products that can be produced in the forest, or the allocation of forest land for the concurrent production of wood and agricultural crops, or of forestry and livestock.

The issue of distribution of benefits can also arise with management designed to establish industrial wood crops through farming systems which grow trees or shrubs with food and cash crops. In themselves, the trees and shrubs may bring no direct benefit to the farmer; rather, they are an impediment which complicates his task. These systems will succeed only when the farmer perceives adequate compensation. Land, in itself, is not a sufficient inducement, other than perhaps in the short-term; it has been observed that, over time, multiple-use systems tend to evolve either into settled agriculture (with the rejection of the associated growing of trees or shrubs) or into full-time forestry employment.

2.4 Institutional and technical constraints

There remain situations in which there is no lack of interest in forestry nor any conflict with other aspects of the way of life, but only a lack of organization or means. Areas which are marginal for agriculture may also be marginal for forestry; this is particularly the case in arid areas, which tend to impose severe climatic constraints on the growing of trees and shrubs. Additionally, arid environments impose other constraints, including that of availability of labour. In arid areas, the planting seasons for both agriculture and forestry are short and coincide. As a result, the availability of labour for tree or shrub planting can be restricted, and planning must allow sufficient flexibility to overcome such a constraint.

Another constraint to forestry in arid environments is the associated cost. Successful tree or shrub planting programmes often involve elaborate site preparation and planting techniques which require sophisticated" and costly equipment. It may be an activity which is beyond the capability and resources of the local community. Therefore forestry, as an activity which the community can implement, is often confined to the manipulation of existing vegetation, with plantation forestry undertaken by the responsible technical branches of government.

Land management on steep upland areas is also likely to present problems of soil stabilization or control of water runoff; establishment of forest cover on parts of the watershed must be accompanied by conservation measures (such as the construction of terraces) to permit stable crop production on other parts. In many instances, farmers will not have the resources to do this. To establish terraces, for example, they would have to forego one crop. Therefore they will need external support, such as credit and food aid.

Another institutional issue is security of land tenure. Patterns and traditions of use on tribal or communal land often make no provision for usages such as forestry, which require the setting aside of land for a particular purpose for relatively long periods of time. Farmers must have assurance that they will control the land on which trees or shrubs are planted.

Frequently, the lack of a tradition in forestry extends beyond just a lack of knowledge about growing trees and shrubs or of an appropriate institutional framework within which to implement it. Usually, it contrasts with a "deep" tradition in agriculture. This contrast is reflected in the attitudes the people have toward forestry, which are significantly different from attitudes toward agricultural crops and livestock. A forest often tends to be seen as a negative element of the environment by farmers. To the settler, it is an impediment to the clearing of his lands and a haven for his enemies. These views can persist long after the forest has receded from the immediate vicinity of a farm or community. Hostility toward forests and trees can persist in areas which already experience shortages of fuelwood and building poles, because of the damage done to agricultural crops by birds which roost in trees.

Other institutional constraints can also limit the success of community forestry approaches: poor seedling distribution systems, poor management, lack of village funds in order to pay for labour, lack of labour at the right time, planting ill-suited exotics vis--vis other options for natural stand management, and so on.

Providing protection to communal woodlots is a particularly frequent problem which may sometimes be reduced by staggering tree planting over several years so that the area which must be protected at any time is kept as small as possible. When the trees have reached a stage where they will be safe from livestock damage, the area can be opened for grazing and browsing. People might also be given access to protected areas for fodder collection, and it is quite likely that fodder production will be greater on these lands if they are protected from free grazing.

The type of silvicultural management system which is adopted is also important. For example, if the community's on-going needs are to be met, annual cutting cycles may be required. However, if the woodlot is very small and the size of the community large, it may not be feasible to divide a small harvest on an annual basis. Similarly, if local people are to be involved in the harvesting, socially workable schemes such as clear-cutting may be preferable to more technically difficult systems like selective thinning. Any management system must, of course, be within the technical competence of the user group and be simple enough that members will feel confident that they can control it in practice.

3. Highlights of section

With increasing population pressures, the forest products which were taken for granted in the past are no longer as plentiful. With their strong tradition in agriculture, rural people are sometimes reluctant to practice forestry on their lands. However, rural dependence on forest products (such as fuelwood, lumber, food, income and employment) is a reality. For a tree or shrub planting programme to be successful, consideration of the present and future needs of the people, as well as their prejudices and traditions, is necessary. Because there is competition among agriculture, livestock grazing, and forestry developmental activities, the local people must be persuaded that multiple-use programmes (which are realized only after a period of years) have value.

Occasionally, there is an institutional constraint to the implementation of the tree and shrub planting programmes; such examples include situations where there may be lack of organizational structure or security of land tenure. The relatively high costs of some endeavours and the technical skill needed also can be prohibitive. Lack of understanding of the role of trees and shrubs in enriching the environment or a reluctance to change can hinder attempts to combat desertification with forestry.

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