Community forestry was described by FAO in 1978 as including any situation which intimately involves local people in a forestry activity (Rao, 1984). Vergara (1985) described the characteristics of social forestry:
FAO (1985c) qualified this generalized view of community forestry in the light of experience of what can actually be achieved in community forestry programs, considering that a large proportion are not initiated by local people but by government officials or outside agencies:
For a community forestry program to have success, there are certain prerequisites, which have become apparent in widely varying situations. Again, these are based on the fact that programs are generally government/NGO- initiated and supported, and that such programs are generally innovative for the people involved, which brings other factors into play.
Hoskins (1980) reported on community participation in forestry projects. In Tanzania it was found that after 12 years of a community approach to forestry, villagers were still unable to understand tree planting or make management decisions, although no assessment of reasons was given.
In a tree planting project in Upper Volta government officials told certain village chiefs their village had been chosen for a fuelwood project. The chiefs were asked to select land, organize the villagers and carry out the tree planting. Trees came late, many were small and some dead. This resulted in them being planted late. This was followed by little rain so more died. On top of this the species were not what the villagers wanted. The villagers were also promised food, materials, insecticide and extra seedlings for personnel use. Nothing came so the villagers became disheartened with the project.
Some of the prerequisites necessary for a community forestry project were listed by Rao (1984):
These show that establishing a community forestry program is an exercise in communications at all -levels, from government policy makers in city based offices to the rural participators in remote villages.
Hoskins (1982) gave 4 goals with which to judge projects by: ecological soundness, local support, national sustainability, and ability to solve local needs with equity. Several myths and realities concerning community forestry programs were also identified:
An example of a successful integrated community development project in Senegal with a forestry component was identified as having the following elements (Hoskins, 1980):
Brokensha et al. (1983), after many years work in Kenya studying fuelwood use, found that in general the better off were more likely to plant trees, and that in promoting tree planting it was important to promote planting of any species so that people become accustomed to tree planting, and then emphasize species selection. In Kenya only when trees became scarce did people start to listen to the government's request for them to plant trees. The demand for seedlings rose rapidly and soon became too much for the government nurseries to supply, so people started their own small nurseries by collecting naturally- germinated seedlings and seed of especially Grevillea robusta. These were taken care of in small plots in homes and were even often stolen because of the high demand.