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4.1 Identifying Programme Objectives
4.2 Types of Community Forestry Development Strategies
4.3 Definitions and Strategic Approaches

Over the past decade, a large number of programmes have been launched to promote tree growing by rural people. Although many of these field projects are still in their early stages, much has already been learned about the potential of various types of programmes and the problems of introducing them.

Objectives set for programmes and methods of implementing them have varied widely. Some programmes have placed tree growing objectives within a broad and ambitious social and environmental framework. Others have been intended to encourage tree growing by individual farmers, and the primary objective has been to increase the production of wood and other tree products for household consumption or for commercial markets.

Community involvement often has been seen as a means of widening the range and distribution of tree growing benefits by bringing public and community land into productive use and by involving landless people and the poor. Strengthening local institutions and generating employment have also been among the explicit objectives of many programmes.

A joint effort for trues

The differences between programmes have thus been considerable. Even so, from the experience to date, distinct strategic approaches can now be identified, each with its own specific potential and limitations. At the same time, these should not be construed as mutually exclusive. Combinations of various basic strategies can be, and often are, developed within a programme or a region.

4.1 Identifying Programme Objectives

Any strategy which is intended to stimulate tree and forest management by local people must, of necessity, be based on a well-defined and consistent set of objectives. In the past, many rural tree growing schemes have been launched under the name of “social forestry” or “forestry for local community development.”

Generally, social forestry is a term used for any type of industrial, conservation or community forestry project which tries to maximize benefits for residents. Community forestry falls under this umbrella. The term community forestry was defined in 1978 by a group of international experts in a way that continues to be accepted.

“Community forestry has been defined... as any situation which immediately involves local people in a forestry activity. It embraces a spectrum of situations ranging from woodlots in areas which are short of wood and other forest products for local needs, through the growing of trees at the farm level to provide cash crops and the processing of forest products at the household, artisan or small industry level to generate income, to the activities of forest dwelling communities. It excludes large-scale industrial forestry and any other form of forestry which contributes to community development solely through employment and wages, but it does include activities of forest industry enterprises and public forest services which encourage and assist forestry activities at the community level. The activities so encompassed are potentially compatible with all types of land ownership. While it thus provides only a partial view of the impact of forestry on rural development, it does embrace most of the ways in which forestry and the goods and services of forestry directly affect the lives of rural people.” (FAO, 1978)

Gradually it has been recognized that even the community forestry label is generic and that the social development norm of such forestry projects does not refer to one specific objective, but rather to a group of objectives. A number of broad aims can be distinguished. Generally, these projects have been intended to:

- provide the means so rural families can supply, or have better access to, certain basic needs in the form of essential forest and tree products;

- increase the participation of the rural people in managing forest and tree resources as a means of increasing their self-reliance;

- use human resources to better manage degraded and marginal lands thereby counteracting the process of deforestation and environmental degradation;

- contribute to the general socio-economic development of rural people through employment generation, institution building and promoting economic growth;

- help meet the needs and aspirations of both women and, men in specific underprivileged groups within the rural population, such as subsistence farmers, migrant herders and the landless;

- increase the overall production of wood or other tree products to counter growing deficits.

Seedlings to meet people’s needs

It should be recognized that although some of these different objectives may be congruent or may reinforce each other, at times they may be conflicting. For instance, when denuded and over-utilized agricultural lands are reforested for environmental improvement, the production of tree products may well be limited by poor growing conditions. Consequently, such schemes may not be financially attractive for smallholders interested in the production of commercial tree products. Even if smallholders do involve themselves in growing trees to meet specific market demands, it may be difficult to achieve participation, especially of poor and landless people. As a result, a given project may have an inconsistent impact among different sectors of the rural population.

It should be realized, as well, that some objectives can be met by planting individual trees in backyards while other objectives require establishing forested areas as complete and well functioning ecosystems. For example, the production of wood or fodder or fruit takes place in individual trees, even if they are standing alone? in contrast, the environmental value of a forest depends on the proper functioning of a concentrated stand of trees as an ecological unit. Even planting trees on private fields may require community agreement for the community-wide control of animals or fire.

Planting together

Thus, in identifying the objectives and strategies for programmes which involve rural people in forest and tree management, it is essential that project outputs and intended beneficiary groups be identified and linked in an internally consistent project design. Under many circumstances there may be trade-offs between effective contribution of tree management schemes to general socio-economic development and efficient creation of specifically needed forestry outputs. It is essential that each proposed project component also be analyzed separately in terms of the objectives it can realistically be expected to meet.

The relative importance of multiple objectives of local tree management schemes will, in the end, be determined by various socio-economic, political and environmental conditions. A proper analysis of these factors is a prerequisite for developing strategies which stimulate local tree growing. The role of policy makers and planners is to establish broad development objectives as well as clear-cut priorities for the use of capital and labour resources for rural forestry so that programmes can be developed which have underlying and basic consistencies. Programmes must identify issues of vital concern to rural people - how land is to be used and protected, what sectors of society should benefit from development activities, and how forest-based needs of rural people are to be met - and then must provide adequate support to address these issues.

4.2 Types of Community Forestry Development Strategies

In addition to the proper identification of programme objectives, several other factors must be considered before developing strategies which encourage local tree growing or other social forestry activities (see Figure 4.1). Closely connected with the identification of a project’s objectives are two related questions. First, who are the individuals or institutions with primary management responsibilities? Second, how is the control, use or ownership of trees and of land resources defined and organized?

Broadly speaking, the control of tree and land resources belongs either to the community (including communal groups), to private groups such as households and individuals or to the public sector. The extent to which any of these groups have control is defined by complex legal and institutional arrangements, traditions, cultures, conditions of class and systems of tenure.

Ultimately, a programme’s design will define tree management responsibilities. These responsibilities will characterize the type of development strategy which is pursued, although they will likely be affected by characteristics of land and tree ownership and control. Outside of public sector managed activities, primary responsibility for land management and for tree planting will lie with the community or communal groups and with individuals and households.

4.3 Definitions and Strategic Approaches

From the experience to date, three broad approaches to community forestry activities can be distinguished. These can be classified under the following headings:

- Communal forestry
- Farm forestry for household use
- Farm forestry for the market

Within each of these categories there is a considerable range of flexibility in goals and operating methods. Nevertheless, each has important distinctive features.

Table 2.1 Possible Community Forestry Development Strategies

Control/Ownership of Land




Management of Tree and Land Resources









Social Forestry
Management Strategy


Communal and Community-based Forestry

1. Tree growing on private lands organized by community institutions

2. Communal tree growing on community lands

3. Public land allocated for communal and community-based forestry projects

Farm Forestry

4. Privately managed tree farming and tree planting around households

5. Privately-managed tree growing on communal or community lands

6. Public land allocation schemes for private tree growing

Table 2.2 Developing Community Forestry Strategies

Communal forestry refers to programmes in which rural communities, or user groups, cooperatively participate in project planning and implementation. This category also includes projects based on the activities of community organizations such as schools or cooperatives which may establish nurseries or plant trees in small or fragmented private woodlots. Communal forestry may involve projects on community lands, on land which has been allocated by the state for the purpose of tree growing or on private land being managed collectively.

Proud of the school nursery’s plants

Farm forestry for household use covers programmes which promote tree growing by individual farmers for their own family use. In some cases, these programmes may have the objective of increasing the supplies of fuelwood, building poles, animal fodder or other tree products; in others, the aims may be primarily environmental with trees being planted to control erosion or to increase soil fertility.

Farm forestry for household use

Farm forestry for the market refers to programmes in which the primary aim is to encourage farmers to grow trees as a cash crop. In the majority of cases, the trees are grown on private lands, but public or common lands may be used where usufruct rights have been allocated to farmers.

Teak for the market

But whatever the distinctions between approaches, the unifying factor in all programmes is that they actively involve rural people and are responsive to their ideas, needs and aspirations. It is this, more than anything else, which should distinguish community forestry approaches from conventional forestry activities.

To the extent that goals encouraging rural participation and management are successful, the forestry service will find itself able to focus on its role as a technical and supportive service rather than as an executing agency. Different services may be needed in the various strategies selected, depending upon the local constraints to tree planting.

For example, for communal strategies, making available state land for communal planting and developing mechanisms to assure participants the benefits of their labour may be necessary. For household farm forestry, careful development of technical options which fit into the farm production system may be the needed focus. Developing market information or credit facilities may be required for market focused forestry.

In some cases foresters are able to put rural residents in touch with existing services or organizations which can provide needed services; in other cases such supports may have to be created. But in all cases foresters must be constantly open to local needs and be willing to locate or develop technical and policy responses to support local efforts in tree planting.

Figure 4 Some Organizational Models for Social Forestry Projects

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