Social Forestry

Introduction

According to the National Forest Policy 1988, one – third of the geographical area of the country should be maintained as forest and tree cover. According to State of Forest Report (2009), Gujarat has only 9.83% of its geographical area declared as forest, which is much below the national average. Forest and tree cover is in the extent of 11.74 % (7.46 % forest cover and 4.28% tree cover outside forest-TOF) of its geographical area. More than half of the population of the state resides in the rural areas, which is directly dependent on forest resources for their fuel-wood, fodder, small timber and other requirements. Due to these reasons, regeneration, maintaining the productivity level and sustainability of the non-forest lands, particularly the common lands has become imperative for the state to meet the increasing rural needs. Promotion of tree planting on non forest land, through Social Forestry programme has, therefore, been considered to be the only answer to improve the green cover in Gujarat State. With this background, as early as 1969-70, Gujarat Forest Department launched a “Social Forestry Programme” for planting trees on non-forest lands and since has become a pioneer and leading state in this field.

The success story of Gujarat in the field of social forestry has been globally acclaimed. Due to consistent improvement in tree cover in Gujarat, the achievements of the state can be listed among the best conservation/restoration stories in the world. Tree cover outside forest- about 8,390 sq. km. (4.3 % of geographical area against only 2.8 % in India) and tree density outside the forest area in Gujarat is the second highest among the states of India, although major part of Gujarat falls in semi-arid and arid zones. Taking lesson from Gujarat, the first national seminar on social forestry was organized in Gandhinagar in 1976. After a period of four decades, a second national seminar on social forestry was organized in February 2011, once again, in Gandhinagar.

The number of trees outside the forest area increased from about 25.1 crores in 2003 to 26.9 crores in 2009 in the state, and tree density of 16 trees/ha in the non forest areas is higher than that of the national average. Seven tree rich districts- Anand, Tapi, Mahesana, Gandhinagar, Kheda, Surat, Navasari and Valsad have tree density above 30 trees/ha, while Anand has a tree density of over 68 trees/ha.

Timber production from trees growing outside forest in Gujarat is very impressive and annual economic contribution- (Gross Value Output-GVO) of trees outside forest (TOF) in form of timber to the state economy was Rs 4,052 crores in 2008 (Source: Central Statistical Organisation, sponsored by the Planning Commission of India). Gujarat was fuel wood and timber deficit state a few decades ago but it is now surplus in fuel wood production and is well on the way of reaching near surplus in timber production, due to social forestry programmes. The state has planned to increase number of trees outside forest from about 26.9 crores to 35.0 crores within a decade through intensive social forestry activities.

Objectives

  • To increase tree cover outside the forest areas.
  • To encourage participation of people and institutions in plantation related activities.
  • To increase the production of forest produce (Small timber, firewood, fodder, fruits and other NTFP) to meet the daily needs of the local population and thereby compliment supplies from the forest areas.
  • To suitably use low productive and non productive lands through tree plantation.
  • To increase income of local people through tree planting.
  • To create livelihood opportunities to economically backward sections of rural communities.
  • To improve carbon stock in the tree cover outside forest areas.

Success and achievements

For a decade (1970 to 1980), the State Government had made budgetary provisions for implementation of the Social Forestry works. A separate Social Forestry Wring was also created in the Forest Department to look after this activity. Subsequently, external funding from the World Bank was sought for extending the Social Forestry programme on a massive scale. The Social Forestry Wing was further strengthened during the World Bank aided projects. In fact, Gujarat state has been recognized nationally and internationally for its successful implementation of the Social Forestry programme during eighties.

YearArea (Ha)Program
1969-70 to 1979-8037,085Social Forestry Plantations carried out through the State Scheme.
1980-81 to 1984-8578,780Word Bank Phase 1, first phase of Social Forestry called “Community Forestry Project” was implemented with assistance from the Word Bank.
1985-86 to 1992-931,05,643Word Bank Phase 2, second phase was implemented with assistance from the Word Bank and USAID.
1993-94 to 1995-9646,410Social Forestry plantations were undertaken under the state schemes.
1996-97 to 2001-0294,241Integrated Forestry Development Project (IFDP) with assistance from the OECF (Japan)
2002-03 to 2010-111,39,066Social Forestry plantations were largely undertaken under the State Scheme and some under GFDP Phase II

The cumulative achievement of Social Forestry works (1969-70 to 2010-11) are as under

ParticularAchievement
Strip Plantations1.02 Lakh ha.
Panchayat Lands(Village Forest)1.31 Lakh ha.
Private Degraded Lands2.39 Lakh ha.
Other Lands0.28 Lakh ha.
Seedling Distribution (Van Mahotsav)558 Crore plants.

Impact

Tree cover outside forest (TOF) has improved consistently over the last four decades. As per the tree population estimates in 2003 and 2009, number of trees outside forest increased at annual rate of 20 lakh trees (increased from 25.1 crores in 2003 to 26.9 crores in 2009). As per State of Forest Report (2009), tree cover and tree density in Gujarat is second highest among the states of India. Seven districts have tree density over 30 trees/ ha whereas Anand district alone has a tree density of 68.4 trees/ ha. Average tree density in Gujarat is higher than the average of India, although major part of Gujarat is in semi arid and arid zone. Against India’s tree cover (TOF) of 2.8% of total geographical area, Gujarat has 4.3% of its geographical area under tree cover outside forest. Timber and wood production from the TOF is very impressive in Gujarat and TOF contributes annually about Rs 4,052 crore of Gross Value Output (GVO) in form of timber. The contribution in terms of NTFP is also tremendous and yet to be monetarily quantified. One estimate indicates that TOF store about 88.6 million tonnes of Carbon and they also have a relatively high rate of Carbon sequestration.

Gross Output Value of ToF
ProductValue (Rs. Lakh)
Timber Recorded4344
Teakwood (Recorded)3371
Teakwood ( Unrecorded)973
Unrecorded Production434
Trees Outside Forest (ToF)405226
414348

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