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5.1 Examples of Communal Tree Growing Activities
5.2 Constraining Issues within Communal Forestry
5.3 The Scope for Communal Forestry

The theoretical attractions of communal programmes are considerable. In principle, they provide a means by which landless people can take part in tree growing and thereby obtain benefits which are otherwise reserved for landowners. Some programmes are designed so that benefits are deliberately channelled toward the poor.

Communal programmes are also one of the few practical approaches to tackling the problem of the degradation of common lands that occurs as a result of the competing demands of local people. Establishing a degree of mutual cooperation may make it possible to organize concerted action to protect these lands, increase their productivity and halt their gradual decline into barren wastelands.

Perhaps the best known recent communal forestry effort has been the Chipko movement. Originating in the Himalayan region of northern India, it was started because a large group of people with common interests in tree resources saw that, by organizing into a group, they could more effectively influence the political and economic forces which were improperly managing their physical environment. The movement first came to public attention in 1973 when members demonstrated against commercial felling of trees in forests where they lived. It has now expanded to cover a number of environmental issues and forestry activities, including plantations (Agarwal and Anand, 1982).

Some other communal forestry programmes have also been actively initiated by local groups or rely on a high level of community participation and control, usually where there are already strong local institutions or traditions of collective local management of natural resources. They are generally designed to use land which is under direct community ownership or state lands which have been specially designated for community control. The main responsibility for planting and looking after the trees is taken by the community or a communal group and the role of the promoting agency is primarily catalytic or technically supportive.

In contrast, the forest department at times has taken on the primary responsibility for carrying out the planting. Inputs such as fertilizers and seedlings are provided without any outlay by the community. The engagement of the local community in the implementation of schemes of this type is largely passive and is normally restricted to providing hired labour for planting, and an agreement to cooperate in protecting the plantation. Although some of these more forest service controlled projects have been established in the hope of turning management progressively over to the community, to date this has seldom been effected.

The majority of communal forestry activities lie somewhere between these two strategies. Most recent programmes involve some form of continuing participation of both the local community and the original implementing agency. Often this is done in order to try to overcome some of the weaknesses associated with either entirely “self-help” or entirely “departmental” management systems. Within this broad framework, a wide variety of different experiences has emerged.

5.1 Examples of Communal Tree Growing Activities

5.1.1 Strengthening Traditional Communal Forestry Systems in Nepal
5.1.2 Introducing Tree Growing into Common Land Management in India
5.1.3 Community Choices between Land Uses in the Sahel
5.1.4 Tree Growing by Village Cooperatives in Korea

5.1.1 Strengthening Traditional Communal Forestry Systems in Nepal

The management of common property forests around rural villages has long been practised among some communities and villages in the hills of Nepal. Traditional control systems usually involved protecting certain highly valued forest types for specific products such as leaf litter from oak forests, tree fodder from chestnut or Shorea robusta forests, or fuelwood branch loppings from Shiima walichana forests. Each member of the user group contributed to the in-kind wages of forest guards and collected the produce according to the agreed rules.

In 1957, however, the government nationalized all forests, intending to introduce more intensive forest management. At the same time, land survey legislation was introduced which defined adjacent lands which were left fallow for at least two years as forest lands. In some cases, forests which were thus no longer under communal jurisdiction rapidly deteriorated, and the government was unable to establish any real level of formal control (Molnar, 1981).

In 1978, the government enacted progressive new legislation which began the process of reversing nationalization by gradually transferring control of the forests back to local populations. In contrast to earlier traditional communal systems, local management was to be based at the lowest level of local government, the panchayat. The government established a series of management rules and guidelines which were intended to assist the panchayats in controlling forested lands. In order to provide the necessary supporting services to bring about these changes, a new Community Forestry and Afforestation Division was formed within the Forestry Department.

Two new forms of land management were introduced which clarified the legal relationship which could be established between the panchayats and the forests: the Panchayat Forest (PF), and the Panchayat Protected Forest (PPF).

Panchayat Forests are new plantations, as large as 125 hectares, which have been established on government wastelands, but which are planted and protected at the request and with the participation of the local panchayat. The panchayat has all rights to the produce of these forests.

Table 3 Control Systems Used in Traditional Forest Management

Basis of Group Rules


1. Harvesting only Selected

- Trees: timber, fuelwood, food (fruit, nuts, seeds, honey), leaf fodder, fibre, leaf mulch, other minor forest products (gums, resins, dyes, liquor, plate leaves, etc.)
- Grass: fodder, thatching, rope
- Other Wild Plants: medicinal herbs, food (tubers, etc.), bamboos, etc.
- Other Cultivated Plants: upland crops (maize, millet, wheat, potatoes, vegetables), fruit, etc.
- Wildlife: animals, birds, bees, other insects, etc.

2. Harvesting According to Condition of Product

- Stage of growth, maturity, alive or dead
- Size, shape
- Plant density, spacing
- Season (flowering, leaves fallen, etc.)
- Part: branch, stem, shoot, flower

3. Limiting Amount of Product

- By Time: by season, by days, by year, by several years
- By Quantity: no. of trees, head-loads, baskets, no. of animals
- By Tool: sickles, saws, axes
- By Area: zoning, blocks, types of terrain, altitude
- By Payment: cask, kind, food or liquor to watchers or village, manure
- By Agency: women, children, hired labour, contractor, type of animal

4. Using Social Means for Protecting Area

- By Watcher: paid in grains or cash
- By Rotational Guard Duty
- By Voluntary Group Action
- By Making Use of Herders Mandatory

Source: Arnold, J.E.M. and Campbell, J.C. Collective Management of Hill Forests in Nepal: The Community forestry Development Project. National Academy of Sciences. 1985

Panchayat Protected Forests are areas of natural forest, up to 500 hectares in size, which usually need upgrading through planting, as well as subsequent protection and management. Panchayats which undertake these activities are allowed to keep 75 percent of the revenue generated by the forests. Under this programme, around 1.5 million hectares (45 percent of the forested lands in the hill areas) are eligible for transferral to panchayats that request it. Since the Community Forestry Development Project was initiated in 1980, some 8 000 hectares of PPFs have been established, and 7 300 ha. have been planted in PPFs and in PFs, involving over a third of Nepal’s 79 districts.

A forest managed by the local community

It is probably too early to speculate about the longer term impacts of this programme. However, it is interesting that in many cases the panchayat has been found to be too large an organizational and management unit. This is in part because it often cover a large area of difficult terrain which lacks basic communication and transportation facilities. Panchayats are also usually composed of separate villages made up of heterogenous groups, making common lands management somewhat problematic.

However, in many cases groups of wood users within the panchayat have developed their own forest management strategies. Such user groups have been found in 36 percent of the panchayats participating in the programme. These management units, at the level of the village or ward, seem to have a greater homogeneity of interests than the panchayat (Campbell and Bhattarai, 1983).

5.1.2 Introducing Tree Growing into Common Land Management in India

In India, the existence of common grazing lands is widespread. A main thrust of programmes to encourage communal tree growing in many parts of the country has been to encourage use of part of such existing degraded common land for local woodlots.

Attempts to engage communities in tree planting date back to the 1940s, although these early efforts were slow to show results. In the 1960s, the states of Tamil Nadu and Gujarat introduced programmes of tree planting on the foreshores of community irrigation reservoirs and along roadsides, canals and railway embankments. These programmes were intended to create local employment opportunities, and to produce fuelwood and building timber for sale. Their management largely remained the responsibility of the Forest Department which bore total project costs. Sales of timber and fuelwood helped to offset costs.

At first, local cooperation remained largely passive. However, the fact that the trees survived and produced income for the Forest Department had an important demonstration effect. Spurred by an extensive publicity campaign and provision of seedlings, local villages gradually showed more interest in becoming directly involved with the programme (Sundaram, 1978). In the 1970s, management responsibilities were increasingly shared with local communities, and arrangements were made to split net profits between the Forest Department and the communities on a 50:50 basis. Under these arrangements, 176 000 ha. of plantations were established in Tamil Nadu and 29 500 hectares were established in Gujarat.

Seedlings for the future

While these earlier efforts mostly involved planting trees on state-owned land (although resource management decisions about these lands were usually made by farmers), subsequent efforts also involved the use of communal lands. In Gujarat, for instance, the Forest Department asked local village panchayats to allow it to establish plantations of at least 4 hectares in size on village lands to be planted with various fuelwood, fodder and fruit trees. In return, villagers were to be allowed access to these lands for fruit and fodder collection and were promised a 50 percent share of net profits when the trees were cut. To date, in sample villages, residents have mainly been allowed to purchase fodder grass from under the trees from the panchayats, which retain the money for communal activities. Community participation in these cases involves providing the land, cooperating in woodlot protection and helping to determine species mix. Once the woodlot is fully established, which takes from 3 to 6 years, the panchayat is supposed to assume complete responsibility for management and protection.

The initial response to these “Supervised Woodlots” was slow. Villagers were concerned that the government would permanently appropriate communal lands which had been given over for planting. Confidence in the Forest Department, however, has gradually improved and by the end of the 1984 planting season over 40 000 hectares of woodlots had been established in 7 000 of Gujarat’s 18 000 villages (Shukla and Dalvi, 1984). However, few of the panchayats have shown interest in taking over management functions for these woodlots, and some evaluations have indicated that many local people believe these plantations belong to the government and so doubt that they will receive benefits.

In a separate attempt to increase community involvement further, a parallel scheme was introduced in Gujarat in 1980 in which villages are encouraged to establish and manage their own community plantations. The Forest Department agrees to provide seedlings and technical assistance, but villages are expected to provide all the other necessary inputs. After harvesting, the community will receive all the proceeds from these “Self-Help Woodlots”. It has been difficult to encourage community involvement in these schemes, and early progress reports were rather disappointing. However, there have been recent indications that communities have become increasingly involved (Shukla and Dalvi, 1984).

Critics have noted that the attempt at incremental involvement of residents in these schemes has made the people suspicious of the changing rules. These observers have suggested that clearly defined options and procedures at the beginning of an activity are more apt to leave the residents confident that they understand the rights as well as the obligations of participation, and that they will truly receive promised benefits.

Strong market demands for wood products has in some areas increased the interest in establishing community woodlots. Producing wood for the market can be an effective way of generating community funds. In Tamil Nadu, for instance, an Acacia nilotica woodlot planted around an irrigation tank reportedly can yield around $500 per hectare after 10 years; a 50 ha plantation can produce $25 000. Even after deducting planting costs and splitting the profits with the Forest Department, this is still a sizeable input into a community’s budget. In this project, panchayats have complete control over their profits, and many express interest in using these future earnings on public works projects such as schools, health facilities and water supplies.

The Indian experience suggests that demonstration activities may be necessary before communities will be interested in participating in communal forestry; it was only after the viability of tree growing had been demonstrated on state lands that community lands were used for plantations. Because of the market opportunities, it is possible that the benefits of community woodlots were perhaps more obvious than they might be in places where tree resources remain free goods.

5.1.3 Community Choices between Land Uses in the Sahel

Over the past decade or so, a tremendous effort has been expended in the Sahel to promote community forestry, in large part as a response to the devastating effects of the Sahelian drought. It has been estimated that at least $160 million were spent on forestry projects in the Sahel between 1972 and 1982.

Drought effects - often worsened by land use

The results have generally been disappointing. Perhaps 25,000 hectares of village woodlots have been planted; many of them grow so poorly that they produce little, if any, wood (Weber, 1982). In Senegal, for instance, one project succeeded in establishing several hundred hectares of village woodlots, but productivity was found to be less than that of the natural forests they had replaced.

Where village woodlots in the Sahel have actually grown and been productive, it has tended to be because they have been planted and managed by the Forest Department, virtually excluding the involvement of local people. In effect, a series of public works emergency programmes was launched with the aim of preventing desertification and of providing fuelwood.

The failure to attract local participation was due largely to poverty, to drought and to the mistaken belief that woodlots were a desirable alternative to existing land-use practices. To villagers, the displacement of common lands was an extremely risky proposition and was especially disruptive of their customary land-use practices (Thomson, 1983).

Many of the projects focused solely on wood production and neglected local needs for a host of non-wood products such as human foods, animal forage, medicinal products and other traditional forest products. Block plantations are also often alien to and incompatible with local patterns of land-use (Taylor and Soumare, 1984). Local people lost access to common grazing lands, and the costs of this loss were found to be quite substantial. Sometimes the loss of these benefits provoked open resentment among the communities these efforts were intended to help. There is the often-cited case of a village woodlot effort in Niger where rural people destroyed tree seedlings which the forestry department had planted on common grazing lands without seeking local villagers’ agreement.

Recently, new approaches have been initiated. In Burkina Faso, for instance, a special unit for village woodlot programmes has been created. This unit is intended to provide farmers with the technical resources to better manage natural vegetation, as well as planted trees, for their own use. Where the passive management of natural regeneration is no longer sustainable, alternative local agroforestry systems are being adapted and made more efficient. Although it is too early to judge the longer term impacts of this programme, early results have been encouraging. After the first four years, 860 villages have collectively planted around 1 200 hectares, and another 1 500 hectares have been planted by farmers, with survival rates of around 70 percent (Compaore et al., 1984).

5.1.4 Tree Growing by Village Cooperatives in Korea

There has been a long tradition of forestry cooperatives in the Republic of Korea, where nearly three-quarters of forest lands are privately owned. However, as a result of wartime destruction and growing demands for fuelwood and timber, by the 1960s the forests were severely depleted, and environmental damage to agricultural lands due to excessive deforestation was mounting.

Figure 5 Relation of National and Private Forestry Organizations in the Republic of Korea

Source: Gregersen, 1982

Table 4 Korea: Expenditure on village afforestation


Amount of work a
(1,000 ha)

Total Expenditure

Government Expenditure

Villager’s expense




(1,000 Won)







84.2 a


920 b
































Source: Gregersen, 1982
a Reforestation
b Erosion control

Table 5: Korea: Income generating by-products from village forests


Amount: M/T

Price: Won











Oak mushroom















Pine mushroom















Kuzu fibre















Corkoak bark













































Source: Gregersen, 1982

Important legislative changes in 1972 gave the government the power to require landowners to reforest private lands. Owners who could not afford to plant their land entered into profit-sharing contracts with local Village Forestry Associations (VFAs) which had been given primary forest development responsibilities within the framework of Saemaul Undong, a broad-based national movement to encourage self-help community development activities. The VFAs were locally elected organizations, voluntarily managed by villagers and operated like cooperatives. There is no question that local participation was at first the result of firm, authoritarian government pressure. Nonetheless, the VFAs provided an exceptionally strong base of local support which helped make village forestry a popular movement.

Working for the village forestry association

Although VFAs are ultimately subject to the guidance of the government, villagers perceive them as being local institutions run by the community. Over 21 000 VFAs belong to county-level Forestry Association Unions (FAUs). VFAs and FAUs both belong to the National Federation of Forestry Association Unions (NFFAU) which has loose administrative links with the government’s Office of Forestry, part of the Ministry for Home Affairs. This arrangement allows a great deal of local independence, while encouraging close working relationships with the government, which bears about 65 percent of the costs of the programme. This level of local autonomy has been essential for community involvement because over the years villagers had grown to associate the Office of Forestry with the policing functions related to its role of protecting forests.

Between 1973 and 1978, the VFAs reforested more than a million hectares with a mixture of fuelwood, fruit, short rotation and timber species. Income from mushrooms, wallpaper fibre and other products, which they had been encouraged to introduce along with the woodlots, grew rapidly. The National Federation of Forestry Association Unions handled the marketing and the government provided low cost credit, as well as research and extension services.

Though many of the circumstances of this programme are clearly particular to Korea, a number of the underlying principles and approaches used could have wide relevance: the broad-based approach toward rural development, the blending of top-down and bottom-up planning, the emphasis on short-term gains in income and welfare, public support for the rapid development of markets for wood and other forest products such as mushrooms, the provision of adequate technical assistance and extension, a conducive legislative environment, and timely access to financial subsidies and loans (Gregersen, 1982).

5.2 Constraining Issues within Communal Forestry

5.2.1 Land and Tree Control Issues
5.2.2 Distribution of Benefits
5.2.3 Institutional and Management Issues

In spite of theoretical advantages, collective forestry has had a mixed record to date. In many countries, progress has been slow, and many constraints have been encountered. Most of these limitations have not been related to the question of the diffusion of new and innovative rural forestry technologies; rather, they seem to be a question of how and why people cooperate.

Possibly the most serious constraint to communal forestry results from social, economic and political heterogeneity in rural communities (Noronha, 1983, 1982; Hoskins, 1982a & b). Communal forestry has been most successful where socio-economic homogeneity has been greatest, for instance in Korea. In many countries, however, communities are made up of cultural mosaics of different social and economic groups, segmented by caste or tribal affiliation and by wide differences in income. Consequently, there are almost always conflicting needs within local villages: between farmers and pastoralists, between the landless and landholders, between women and men, etc. A collective orientation toward tree resources may be lacking, and existing institutions may be unable to develop an effective means of common resource management. A mid-term review of the “Self-Help Woodlot” programmes in Gujarat, for example, suggested that these activities were difficult to initiate primarily because of non-homogeneity within communities and because of a popular mistrust of systems which were intended to ensure the equitable distribution of woodlot income.

5.2.1 Land and Tree Control Issues

Land use conflicts have proven to be one of the most serious obstacles to the effective implementation of communal forestry projects. They are often an expression of basic heterogeneity and conflict of interests among villagers. Common lands are seldom “unutilized”, and by planting trees on them, some land-use practice is likely to be affected, possibly leaving some members of the community worse off than before. In many cases, the loss of grazing lands to community forests has particularly affected poorer members of the community. The lesson of experience is very clear: however it is achieved, early resolution of any potential conflicts in interests over access to land is absolutely crucial to the success of communal forestry programmes.

Members of a community may have conflicting customary and accepted uses for that land. Uses may change by seasons or activity. Certain families may have rights to collecting, others to herding or crossing, others to farming on the same land at different times. Informal and illicit private uses of common and public lands may have an important economic value, and this will have to be taken into account if alternative activities are planned. The de jure and de facto situations with regard to control of the land may be greatly different, but even where they are more closely congruent, there simply may not be enough common land available to meet different needs. In Uttar Pradesh, India, for instance, there is a widespread policy of distributing village-managed common lands to the landless. Consequently, the pressures on remaining village-managed lands are greatly increased, and land may not be available to set aside for community woodlots (Noronha, 1980).

In contrast, there are cases where nominally public land is, in fact, under the control of private individuals. In a community forestry project in Azad Kashmir, Pakistan, plantings were originally to be undertaken on government lands and were later to be extended to common “shamlat” lands. Mid-way through the project, however, it was discovered that shamlat lands, for the most part, were actually privately controlled by wealthier farmers. These same farmers were eager to take advantage of project subsidies for planting, hoping to get their lands planted at full government expense and guarded from others (Cernea, 1981). The programme has since been altered in order to bring it into line with its original objectives.

In many traditional tenurial systems, there is often a distinction between land tenure and tree tenure. Planting trees, even on communal lands, may have a significant impact on land control. For instance, even if land is communally owned, people who plant trees on the land may be establishing certain property rights, either to the trees or to the land. In some cases, planting trees on communal lands by the forest department has been understood to mean that these lands were being taken by the government. In both of these instances, the intention that the benefits from a community forest should be shared with equity is jeopardized.

5.2.2 Distribution of Benefits

A closely related issue is how benefits of communal forestry activities are distributed. This may often be a function of how use-rights to trees growing on common lands are established. Residents of a certain village may be granted use-rights, while “strangers” may be denied access to trees. In a Nigerian court case in 1926, for instance, the principle that only “local people of the neighbourhood” could harvest palm trees was upheld.

For the most part, however, the question is really one of how the benefits from a community forest can be equitably distributed among community members. Within a community, access to trees which grow naturally on common and public lands is not always clearcut and may be a function of status within a village, income group, physical proximity to common lands, household size and so on. Tree tenure rights which define the right to use trees which have been planted on common property can be established by similar criteria. These, however, may be inconsistent with project objectives which emphasize equal sharing of an activity’s costs and benefits.

Questions about how benefits are to be shared have posed serious problems in many communal forestry projects because there has been no clear and agreed upon method for splitting the output. Participants are often unsure if returns will go to the forest department, to a common village fund, to specific village groups or projects, or if they will be directly shared among villagers. Whether or not the question of the distribution of a project’s costs and benefits will be resolved depends very much on the confidence village people have in their local leadership and the degree to which arrangements have been publicly agreed and recorded. Many rural people are intensely suspicious of financial dealings undertaken on their behalf by others.

Particular limitations of commercially oriented programmes also need to be borne in mind. Almost all Indian programmes have been implemented where there is a strong commercial demand for wood products. These activities can be an effective means for generating community funds for building schools, developing better water supplies, constructing health facilities or providing other local benefits.

However useful such commercial arrangements may be to the community at large, they may have little positive impact on increasing the availability of tree products for people in the lowest economic levels. Increased fuelwood supplies may lower the price of fuelwood in the marketplace; but because many poor rural people are unable to afford fuelwood at any price, they will have to continue to use what other traditional sources of fuel, such as agricultural residues and animal dung, they can find.

In community schemes where a clear and locally acceptable method of benefit-sharing has not been agreed upon, the development of future difficulties when the trees are harvested is quite possible. This is causing concern in a number of countries where communal plantations, established in the late 1970s, are beginning to reach a harvestable age. The continuation of many projects beyond the first harvest will depend greatly on the extent to which the problem of benefit distribution is resolved.

One approach to ensuring that all members of a community or user group benefit from community forests is to guarantee that the benefits are split equally. This approach is, in fact, adopted by many panchayats in Nepal and India.

5.2.3 Institutional and Management Issues

The task of supporting communal forestry is often equated with that of strengthening local institutions. However, existing community institutions often perpetuate existing differences and inequalities, as they tend to represent and maintain the local pattern of power and interest. This is especially true in communities with a great disparity in income distribution. Wealthier members of a community usually have the loudest voice in decision-making. They are able to mobilize support among people who depend on them for such things as employment, tenancy and loans. Consequently, their viewpoint may prevail over the interests of the community as a whole.

It is optimistic to suggest that the powerful members of the community will be likely to represent the views of the poor. They frequently oppose and frustrate measures which aim to bring about change and social reform. This may be true also of local agents of the forestry and other government services. It cannot be assumed, therefore, that by giving local institutions the authority to carry out community forestry activities, they will automatically further the cause of the most deprived in the community. It is unrealistic to expect village-level community forestry activities to be more progressive than the rest of society.

A public discussion

Local institution strengthening or building is a lengthy and complex business and must take into account the real distribution of social, economic and political power at the local level. Expectations, again, must be realistic. Often much depends on central institutions, such as forestry departments, promoting collaboration, providing project management and arriving at an equitable means of distributing a project’s benefits. This is especially true if a community is expected to risk capital and labour resources for tree growing. Possible approaches include developing demonstration projects on public lands, as well as promoting community forestry through farm forestry activities.

The level of trust within a community, and between communities and the government, is frequently related to the process by which agreements between them are established. The greater the degree of public discussion at the beginning of a project about how the benefits from communal forests are to be distributed, and the extent to which this discussion leads to a concensus, the greater will be the level of trust between rural people and community leaders.

Perhaps the most concrete management concept to emerge from communal forestry experience to date is that successful management groups need not be geographically defined by village or panchayat, but rather by user groups with a shared interest in managing the particular resource. However, the interests of all parties affected by the activity must be considered. In cases where residents organize around felt forestry or environmental needs, technical support can be especially effective.

Some local institutional constraints may require public legislation before communal forestry programmes (as well as other approaches toward community forestry) can be implemented. The establishment of alternative systems of land tenure, as in Nepal, can be an effective legal method for favouring community involvement. Sometimes, legislation must be more authoritarian, as in Korea, but this approach will not always be realistic, given the variety of individual and cultural responses to expressions of authority and the difficulties faced in enforcing legislation.

In some instances, as in the Integrated Project for the Conservation and Community Reforestation of Deteriorated Watersheds (PRIDECU) in Colombia, it has been possible to overcome constraints relating to availability of land for communal use by allocating public land. Where forest settlement has placed heavy pressures on watersheds, illegal settlers are encouraged to form cooperative societies which can legally apply for title to these public lands. In accepting title to degraded areas, newly-formed cooperatives enter into a land-use management agreement with the National Institute of Renewable Natural Resources and the Environment (INDERENA).

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-a-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 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.

5.3 The Scope for Communal Forestry

Communal forestry activities have seldom managed to meet the expectations which have been placed upon them. The problem has not been so much that these approaches are intrinsically unmanageable; rather, they have been burdened with rhetoric and over-ambitious objectives. Achievable reality and expectations have often been separated by a wide gap. Also, communal management, land and benefit distribution issues have proven to be much more complex in communal forestry activities than proponents had expected. The result has been a certain sense of disillusionment.

Nevertheless, experience has shown that in the appropriate circumstances, and with effective support from governments, forestry services and local organizations, very substantial community tree planting achievements can be made. Events in Korea and India have demonstrated this on an extremely large scale.

The practical limitations of programmes, particularly in their capacity to bring about significant social change, must, however, be accepted. It is true that communal forestry programmes can provide an effective means of helping the poorer members of the community, but this depends almost entirely upon the commitment of the local community organization to doing so.

If the plantation is treated as a purely commercial enterprise and the wood is sold to dealers from urban areas, the result will be similar to a farm forestry programme. There will be a net increase in the total biomass production in the area, but the available fodder and fuelwood to the poor may well be reduced.

The point is not that communal forestry projects necessarily harm the poor; it is that they do not automatically benefit them. If resolving the problems of the poorest members of the community is taken as a major objective of a programme, its design and implementation will have to be explicitly tailored so that this objective is reached. Simply ensuring that trees are grown or that power is devolved to local community organizations will not in themselves necessarily bring any worthwhile benefits to the poor.

It is important that the unsatisfactory record of some of these programmes not be allowed to obscure the substantial achievements that have been made in other cases and the great potential of this approach. Communal programmes will always require painstaking preparation. They may not be able to produce the spectacular production results of the farm forestry programmes with which they are often compared. However, almost all of the different types of programmes which have been developed to date offer opportunities for effective and relevant action under the appropriate conditions.

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