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The work of FAO

Poplar Congress in France
Development center on watershed management
European forestry commission

Poplar Congress in France

The Ninth Session of the International Poplar Commission was held under the auspices of FAO in Paris from 22 to 29 April 1957, in the course of a Sixth International Poplar Congress which had been organized by the Government of France. This Congress was preceded by a four-day study tour in the Garonne and Rhone valleys, and followed by short tours in the region east of Paris.

Mr. F. Merveilleux du Vignaux, Director-General of the French Forest Service, opened the Congress at the Palais d'Orsay, to which had come more than 130 delegates from 28 countries spread all over the world. Mr. Ph. Guinier, of the Institut de France, and Mr. Marcel Leloup, Director of the Forestry Division of FAO, also addressed the inaugural meeting and gave emphasis to the worldwide importance which poplar cultivation has attained, as evidenced by the results achieved by the International Poplar Commission. Ten years after its creation, this Commission now has a membership of 20 countries, Greece, Lebanon, Pakistan and Yugoslavia being admitted at Paris.

Mr. A. Herbignat, Director-General of the Belgian Forest Service, Mr. Alexander Jablocov. Member of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, and Mr. E. J. Schreiner, of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, were elected Vice-Presidents of the Congress. Mr. A. Guinier, Chairman of the International Poplar Commission, was elected President. Mr. R. Fontaine (FAO) was Secretary.

The Congress received with interest reports regarding many countries. Of particular interest was new information from Hungary, Poland. the U.S.S.R. and Yugoslavia. Stress was laid on the necessity for a better exchange of technical information among the various countries interested in poplars and their cultivation and use, and of the results of experimental work. The opportunity afforded by the Congress marked a useful step in this direction. More attention needed to be given to the problems posed by the intensive cultivation of tree species in plantations outside the forest proper in that these can differ considerably from the problems of silviculture in the strictest sense.

The meetings of the International Poplar Commission itself were concerned with current projects - statistics, the genus Salix, nomenclature and registration, experimental methods, pests and diseases, and the harvesting and utilization of poplar timber. It was decided to carry out an international survey on damage caused by the Dothichiza, and to create a study group on insect pests on the same lines as the existing study groups on diseases and on utilization. Experiments will be con ducted on poplar cultivation in semi-arid areas of the Mediterranean basin and the Near East.

The Commission elected Mr. G. Giordano (Italy) as its new Chairman and Mr. J. Pourtet (France) as Vice-Chairman of the Standing Executive Committee. Special tribute was paid to the retiring Chairman, Mr. Ph. Guinier, who has presided with great authority over the Commission for 10 years and whose retirement is unanimously regretted, and to Mr. G. Houtzagers of the Netherlands, the retiring Vice-Chairman who was prevented by illness from attending the present session but whose contribution to the work of the Commission was always particularly appreciated and valuable.1

1 It is with regret that we must announce the subsequent death of Mr. Houtzagers in June.

Development center on watershed management

Following a request of the Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission, the Forestry and Agriculture Divisions of FAO last year jointly started organizing a regional Development Center on Watershed Management. At the invitation of the Government of India, the Center was held in the upper Damodar valley at Hazaribagh, Birah, from 18 February to 16 March 1957, and covered the management of small watersheds through forestry, grassland management, the management of arable agricultural lands and small-scale engineering.

Nine governments of the region nominated participants, comprising 11 foresters, 9 agriculturists and one engineer, drawn from the following countries: Australia (11, Burma (2), Ceylon (2), India (6), Indonesia (23, Japan (2), Pakistan (2), Philippines (2) and Thailand (2). Two special lecturers Herbert C. Storey. Chief, Division of Watershed Management Research of the United States Forest Service, and John Wetzel, Chief, Small Watersheds Planning Branch, United States Soil Conservation Service, were brought to the Center to present the basic material for the technical program. In addition, a number of guest lecturers were furnished by India and Ceylon, as well as by FAO. T. J. Mirchandani, Director, Department of Soil Conservation. Damodar Valley Corporation, served as Co-director, along with Clark E. Holscher of FAO's Forestry Division and John Blackmore of the Agriculture Division. The Government of India and Damodar Valley Corporation (D.V.C.) were hosts to the Center and respectively were represented by C.A.R. Bhadran, Deputy Inspector-General of Forests, and P. S. Rao, Chairman, D.V.C. Board of Directors.

The program of the Center was developed around the concept of land-use planning and management with small watersheds forming the units of management. While a general sketch plan for entire river basins is desirable, detailed plans for action on improvement programs should be based on the small watershed units which make up the entire basin.

Lectures and discussions were held on the following general subjects:

1. Basic concepts of the hydrology of a watershed

2. Application of forestry techniques in watershed control and the role of forestry in watershed planning

3. Application of grazing management and revegetation techniques, the relationship of grazing to agriculture and forestry, and the role of grasslands in watershed management planning

4. Soil conservation techniques in arable land management, the development of farm plans, and the application of improved land use and production practices which will assist in better soil conservation in watersheds

5. Design and use of engineering structures in watershed control and in improved farm, forest and grassland management

6. The overall planning of watershed management projects and the education and extension activities which must be included in such planning.

What can be done. In 1936 this North Carolina hillside was slowly but surely sliding into highway ditches and stream beds. Courtesy, American Forests

What can be done. Fourteen years later it was stabilized and again productive. Courtesy, American Forests

The last week of the Center was given over to the actual planning of a small watershed. The group of participants was divided into teams of five and each team was assigned the task of developing a plan of improved land use and management, but each with a different set of objectives. For instance, one group was to develop a plan which would serve an irrigation project, another a plan which would give maximum sustained flow of clear water throughout the year, all plans, of course, including adequate soil conservation considerations.

Two of the major problems affecting watersheds in the Asia and Far East region are shifting cultivation and grazing. These problems have social and political as well as technical implications and this emphasizes the need for including watershed management as a part of the forest policy of each country. Shifting cultivation was mentioned repeatedly during the discussions of the Working Party on Watershed Management, a subsidiary body of the Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission, which met during the period the Center was held, and it is likely that this Working Party will devote special study to this subject in the near future.

The papers presented at the Development Center are to be printed by the Soil Conservation Society of India, and will be available, in English, for general distribution. Also, a report on the project is being prepared by FAO and will consist of a synthesis of the knowledge and ideas expressed on the various subjects discussed at the Center.

European forestry commission

The European Forestry Commission of FAO held its Ninth Session at Headquarters in Rome from 7 to 14 May 1957. The session was followed by a field tour to study the silvicultural systems and management of Alpine forests, which was kindly organized by the Italian State Forest Service.

Representatives of seventeen Member Governments participated as follows: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Morocco, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and Yugoslavia. Observers were also present from the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the European Confederation of Agriculture and the International Union of Forest Research Organizations. Mr. Leloup, Director of the Forestry Division, represented the Director-General of FAO.

The discussions were directed by the Commission's Chairman, Sir Henry Beresford-Peirse (United Kingdom), except for one day when the meeting was presided over by the First Vice-Chairman, Mr. J. Keller (Switzerland). Mr. N. A. Osara (Finland) was appointed Rapporteur for the session.

The Commission first reviewed the activities of its various subsidiary bodies: the Joint EFC/NEFC Sub-Commission on Mediterranean Forestry Problems (Silva Mediterranea), the Working Party on Afforestation and Reforestation, the Working Party on Torrent Control and Protection from Avalanches, the Joint FAO/ECE Committee on Forest Working Techniques and Training of Forest Workers and the Joint FAO/ECE Working Party on Forest and Forest Products Statistics.

It then passed to a review of progress in forestry over the past two years in the countries of the region, and discussed the general trends. National progress reports submitted by Member Governments revealed some interesting features. Efforts were indicated as being directed more and more towards:

(a) afforestation, at least in the countries of central and southern Europe, considerable areas being planted to poplars;

(b) the promotion, in nearly all countries, of the private small woodland and, more generally, towards the integration of private forestry into the national economy;

(c) increased productivity by improved efficiency in logging operations and by the setting up of new factories to absorb those forest products that have until now been more or less discarded by industry.

The Commission heard statements by several delegates on the action taken or being taken by their respective governments to adapt forest legislation to current needs and conditions through a revision of existing laws or enactment of special legislation for specific purposes, such as the special law for Calabria (Italy) relating to extraordinary watershed management works to be carried out over a period of 12 years, and which includes financial provisions for research, technical assistance and training of workers. The Commission also took note that a number of Member Governments have taken steps to strengthen or reorganize their Forest Services. The Commission stressed this alertness of governments to adjust legislation and the means for its implementation, that is forest administration, to changing conditions as evidence of the increasing interest of governments in the role that forestry can play for the development of national economies.

Control of the origin and quality of forest seed and planting stock was reported to the Commission as being pursued or initiated in several countries in various ways. The Commission took note with satisfaction that this very important question is now being given due consideration not only by science, as was the case in the past, but also by practice, and that relevant legislative measures are being taken in a number of countries. Consequently, it recommended that the Director-General should draw the attention of Member Governments to the great importance of an efficient control of the origin and quality of forest seed and planting stock to avoid serious mistakes in establishing new forests and, in particular, should urge those governments which at present have no such control to take appropriate measures as soon as possible to remedy the situation.

The Commission discussed at length problems facing small woodlands in Europe.

European governments, it was acknowledge, recognize the great advantages for farmers to have woodlots of a certain size closely linked to the farm economy. In most cases a government's policy is to integrate small woodlands, including farm woodlots, into the general forest policy of the country. If such an integration is to yield fruitful results, agriculture and forest development will have to go hand in hand and not be planned separately, as is often the case at present. Private forests, and especially farm forests, suffer considerably from the present state of affairs, as extraordinary expenses or heavy investments in agriculture are all too often made at the expense of farm woodlots through overcutting. Therefore, the Commission recommended that the need for the integration of agriculture with forestry should be brought to the attention of Member Governments by the Director-General as developments in either of these fields have immediate repercussions on the other, and advocated closer cooperation on this question between the European Confederation of Agriculture and the Commission itself. It also requested that the Director-General should ensure that this problem is tackled by the FAO Agriculture and Forestry Divisions in close collaboration. A report by the Natural Resources Committee of the United Kingdom, entitled Forestry, Agriculture and Marginal Land, received special notice.

In spite of the widely different problems relating to small woodlands that confront Member Governments, the Commission agreed that the following measures, if taken, might bring about considerable improvement in the situation in the majority of the European countries:

(a) creation of forest groups, syndicates, cooperatives or societies (in accordance with local legislation) to avoid further fragmentation of forest holdings and encourage the consolidation of existing fragmented holdings into economic units to be subjected to intensive management;

(b) creation of similar co-operatives for the afforestation of marginal land, the establishment of plantations with quick-growing species outside the forest proper and the inter-planting of the same species in derelict woodlands;

(c) conversion of coppices into high forests to enable the production of much more valuable wood categories other than fuelwood;

(d) closer co-operation between agriculture and forest services advising farmers;

(e) better technical training of forest owners with special reference to silviculture, felling, grading and transport operations;

(f) more financial aid to be given to private forest owners by the State in the form of subventions, loans or special funds (in this connexion, the Commission wished to draw attention in particular to the loan system of the Fonds forestier national of France to help owners pay inheritance taxes without having to cut or sell part of the inherited forest, to the anticipation system for newly-established plantations adopted in Morocco, and to the Norwegian and Swedish systems of investment funds);

(g) development of low-premium insurance policies against fires, pests, diseases and other forest calamities;

(h) creation of forest owners associations whenever possible of the type existing in Northern Europe, which have so far proved to be very effective in solving many of the problems confronting small private forest owners in practically all member countries.

In connection with discussions on planting programs in Europe, the subject of myxomatosis received attention. Myxomatosis has in the past few years reduced considerably the rabbit population in many countries, but its virulence seems now sharply declining. The spread of this disease has been very beneficial from the forestry point of view in all countries where the rabbit was a serious pest, making fencing of newly-established plantations superfluous and thus reducing considerably planting costs, and enabling the forest to re-establish itself naturally in many areas. No definitive conclusions as to the future development of the disease can be drawn as yet, and the Commission recommended that the Director-General should request Member Governments to communicate any more results of their experience on myxomatosis to the Direction générale des eaux et forêts in Paris, where there is a special organization studying the development of the disease. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources has issued a publication on the consequences of myxomatosis.

After dealing with a number of other topics on its agenda, the Commission discussed the problem of the exodus of forest workers to types of lighter and more remunerative work which remained a preoccupation of several Member Governments, although efforts have been made to improve working and living conditions.

Member Governments were invited to pursue such efforts for the sake not only of the forest workers but also of the forest and timber industries themselves, whose future is jeopardized by lack of skilled labor. In particular, attention was drawn to the need for better education of workers through apprenticeship schemes and more adequate accident, old-age, and sickness insurance or pension schemes. Wages, in addition, should be brought into line with those of industrial workers insofar as possible. Increasing attention should be given to the technical training of forest workers and private forest owners and to younger generations. The establishment in some countries of school forests adopted by pupils, who look after them and learn the elements of silviculture while at the same time regard for the forest is instilled into them, was regarded as an example to be followed by other Member Governments.

The Commission was pleased to note that the results of national forest inventories conducted recently in a few member countries showed marked increase in the growing stock, giving clear indications of the constructive work of foresters over the years.

In spite of an envisaged decrease in fellings during the next decade in those countries where heavy overcuttings were made during the war and in the postwar period to meet reconstruction requirements, this reduction will in the same period be more than offset by increased fellings in other countries, made possible by the past work of foresters to improve their stands. By 1965, total fellings are likely to reach a new peak, while the volume of industrial wood may exceed the 1950 output by more than 25 percent. This increase is to be ascribed also to a greater proportion of industrial wood out of the total which today's forestry practices makes it possible to obtain.

The Commission congratulated FAO and ECE on the closeness of the forecasts for 1960 made in the study, European Timber Trends and Prospects, with those at present available for the same year. It wished to put on record that such closeness was the best justification for the FAO Forestry Division undertaking to assess world wood supplies and requirements for 1975.

The Commission concluded its session with a review of current FAO forestry activities as they affect the European region, and made proposals as to future orientation of the Organization's program of work.

Finally the Commission unanimously elected Mr. Alberto M. Camaiti, Director-General of Mountain Economy and Forests of Italy, as its new Chairman for the coming two years. Mr. Alf. E. Langsaeter (Norway) and Mr. K. Oedekoven (Germany) were also unanimously elected First and Second Vice-Chairman respectively, for the same term of office.

On behalf of all delegations, Mr. Camaiti congratulated the retiring Chairman, Sir Henry Beresford-Peirse, of the United Kingdom, on the excellent and most tactful way in which he had presided over the last two sessions of the Commission.

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