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Though rural men and women have always depended on forests for some of the more important inputs into their life systems, the provision of support to enable them to maintain needed local tree resources received little attention in most countries until quite recently. However, over the past decade, heightened concern with energy supplies, rural poverty, environmental degradation and food shortages have all contributed to a better awareness of the magnitude and importance of the contributions that outputs of forests and trees make directly to the well-being of rural people in non-industrialized countries.

This increased awareness has led to a growing concern as to the impact of deforestation on local availabilities of such needed goods and services of the forest as fuelwood, fodder, food and protection of agricultural land. Under pressure of expanding rural populations, increasing areas of forests are being put under shifting cultivation or cleared for settled agriculture. Tropical forests are being reduced at the rate of about 7.5 million hectares of closed forest and 3.8 million hectares of open forest annually (Lanly, 1982). In addition, forests, and even more the patches of forest, woodland and remaining individual trees outside the forest, are being subject to a variety of other pressures leading to their reduction and removal.

The magnitudes of some of the imbalances between local needs for and availabilities of forest products that are emerging with increasing pressures on forest and tree resources are formidable. It has been estimated, for example, that if present trends in population growth, depletion of forest resources and levels of planting programmes continue unchanged, the numbers of rural people experiencing or facing fuelwood shortages will increase from about 1,150 million in 1980 to close to 2,400 million in the year 2000 (de Montalembert and Clément, 1983).

Though effects of fuelwood shortages have received most attention, other impacts of reduced access to tree resources can be equally if not more severe. Shortages of timber and poles for housing, which requires trees of larger size and better quality than are needed for fuelwood, tend to emerge earlier and more sharply than shortages of the latter. Products of the forest such as arboreal fodder or human foods from particular trees can run short even more rapidly. Probably most serious of all is the environmental damage consequent upon removal of too much tree cover, which in places has reached the point where it threatens the very land and water base of food production. The sharp increase in activity to encourage and support more tree growing to meet local rural needs is thus a response to a number of concerns.

Afforestation programmes to provide rural communities with fuelwood and other forest products are not new. They have usually featured prominently in the activities of forest services, though in the last couple of decades they tended to become overshadowed by the priority attached to industrial plantations. What is new in recent programmes is recognition that the scope and widespread dispersion of rural needs for local tree cover is now so great that it can only be tackled in an essentially self-help fashion by the people themselves, and that to secure such participation tree growing must be made attractive to them.

Many programmes and projects designed to encourage and support such activities are now in existence. Most are very recent, few having been in place long enough to complete a full cycle of production and use. The process of learning what the requisites are for success in community forestry is therefore still at an early stage. Nevertheless, experience is accumulating rapidly.

This experience has been quite varied. Few of the projects and programmes have evolved in practice precisely as was envisaged at their inception. Even fewer can be judged yet as being unequivocably successful. Nevertheless some actual accomplishments, whether planned or not, have been striking. The village forestry programme in the Republic of Korea resulted in more than a million hectares of local woodlots being planted by more than two million members of upwards of 22 000 village cooperatives in five years. The rapidly growing farm forestry movement in India is by now absorbing more than 1 200 million tree seedlings a year from government sources alone. Many other examples could be cited.

The rapidly growing body of information about what is actually being achieved, and about what is not succeeding, is beginning to provide new insights on tree growing by rural people, making it desirable to attempt a systematic review of this whole area of activity. Prominent among the perceptions that are taking shape are the following:

- rural forestry innovations must be based on an understanding of traditional tree management practices and indigenous knowledge, of both men and women, as well as of what makes introduction of new management strategies necessary;

- rural people usually maintain or grow trees to provide multiple outputs rather than a single product such as fuelwood;

- tree growing and use serve a variety of quite different objectives in different situations, and these need to be pursued through different strategies rather than through a single strategy of “communal” or “farm” forestry;

- tree growing generates different benefits, and costs, to different segments of the community; not everyone will necessarily share equally, or share at all, in the outputs.

This study is intended to help illuminate and clarify these and other lessons that are emerging from experience to date.

The Context of the Study

The study is concerned with one way to maintain or increase local tree resources: the establishment and management of additional or replacement trees by people in that locality as a participatory self-help action. As has been suggested above, only by harnessing local interests and resources can the scale of action needed be achieved. The common feature of all the different experiences reviewed in the study is thus the motivation and involvement of local people who were the principal participants in their planning and execution. The study therefore focuses on this participatory process and on the institutional framework needed to encourage and support it.

It is appropriate at this point to place this type of activity within the broader context of alternative ways of maintaining local supplies of forest outputs. Not all of these outputs need necessarily to be met by planting trees; conservation and management of existing forests and woodland may be a more appropriate response. There is, in fact, reason to suspect that this option is too often overlooked or discarded, or too quickly abandoned, in favour of the seemingly more easily manageable task of establishing a planted resource.

Where planting is needed, not all of it has to be undertaken by rural people themselves. Forest services and other governmental and non-governmental entities continue to account for much rural afforestation. There are, in practice, a variety of intermediate stages between corporate and participatory tree planting which combine local interests with those of a corporate entity. The taungya system of plantation establishment on public land by farmers given temporary access to the land is one. Local government village woodlots established by and on the initiative of the government but designed to meet local needs is another. These are dealt with in the chapters that follow only to the extent that they bear on the issue of involvement and participation of local people. Nevertheless, it should be kept in mind that such options exist.

Another even broader context needs to be considered at this point, that of the boundaries within which participatory tree growing can reasonably be expected to contribute to satisfying needs which have traditionally been met from outputs of the forest. The option of growing trees will not be available to all rural people. Large numbers of people are landless, and a variety of impediments limit access of many of them to land for tree growing; physical and economic factors prevent others from growing trees even when they have access to land; and institutional restrictions exclude yet others from participation. Some people may even be made worse off by the diversion of land to which they previously had access, to tree growing by others.

Not all these constraints and limits are immutable, and clearly one objective of government intervention should be to widen access to benefits to be obtained from trees and growing of trees. Though individual projects and programmes must usually be shaped and take place within a narrower framework, it is important not to lose sight of these broader contexts.

Organization of the Study

The study has been organized with three objectives in mind: to address the context which has made the introduction of rural forestry innovations necessary in the first place; to review different strategies which have been taken to encourage local tree growing; and to discuss programming, planning and institutional issues which have been dominant features of these experiences.

Part I reviews traditions of rural environmental management which balanced the need for trees with other land uses and which have been greatly weakened by growing demographic, social and economic pressures. It examines the need for the introduction of forestry innovations, and suggests that there is a range of responses to tree scarcity. These responses will be dependent on the ability of an existing management system to cope with mounting pressures on trees and on constraints which may prevent people from growing and managing adequate numbers of trees in the first place. The need for interventions of any kind is seldom clearcut. Importantly, there may be opportunities for building on existing traditional management systems instead of introducing radically new silvicultural strategies.

Part II discusses various approaches that have been adopted in developing participatory tree growing and management activities. Different strategies are required to meet the different objectives people pursue through tree growing, to reflect different patterns of ownership and control of land and tree resources, and to accommodate local institutional arrangements for their management. Three main strategies of community forestry are defined: tree growing carried out under collective management or the management of communal organizations, tree planting and management at the level of the individual farm to provide outputs for household or family use, and farm level tree growing to produce cash crops.

Part III covers the broader framework of government support services and of the institutional setting within which most communal and farm forestry activities will function. Specific issues in programming, planning and design which are discussed include economic analysis in the project preparation process, the farmer’s perspective of tree growing in the rural agricultural economy, the need for monitoring and evaluation of rural forestry programmes, institutional arrangements, and extension and education approaches. Also covered are the role of forest services and of non-governmental organizations.

The wealth of experience reported in the study reflects an extraordinarily diverse range of situations in which people are growing trees. One aim of the study has been to define broad classifications of systems and strategies. At the same time, each situation has proven in some measure to be unique, and needs to be dealt with individually. There are no universal prescriptions that can be applied to every programme. Each must be defined and structured in terms of the particular needs, aspirations and possibilities of the people involved - and of the broader framework of local and national institutions and policies. This study is thus not a manual nor does it attempt to prescribe particular courses of action to be followed. However, it is hoped that it will provide a body of knowledge to assist those concerned with programmes which support rural both men and women in their tree growing and to help them to define, plan and manage such programmes.

With the future on his shoulder

Produce from trees

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