Tree seed and community forestry

2. Overview of community forestry

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:

  1. rural forestry innovations must be based on an understanding of the traditional practices and knowledge in a particular area.
  2. different situations will have different objectives and so need different strategies.
  3. different sections of the community will receive benefits and pay costs to different extents or even not participate at all.

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):

  1. Political commitment. Long-term commitment to rural development by governments is needed, legislation related to land tenure is needed, and development should be bottom-up.
  2. Assessment of rural needs. This should be in consultation with the people themselves, taking into account environmental considerations.
  3. Appropriate technical solutions.
  4. A system of incentives.
  5. Suitable rural institutions.
  6. Supportive organizations.
  7. An extension network.
  8. Research support.

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:

  1. Myth: fast-growing exotics are usually considered the best species;
    : they in fact seldom fulfil the 4 goals.
  2. Myth: Community needs are easy to identify for basing a program on;
    the many and various needs are conflicting and so cannot be solved equally.
  3. Myth: Village woodlots are simple to establish on vacant communal land and be run on traditional lines with the chief as spokesman;
    there may be no communal land available and the local leaders, may not be recognized by everyone or ensure that the proceeds are distributed equitably - they may keep a major portion for themselves.
  4. Myth: With enough information available rational decisions will be made nationally, regionally and locally;
    the availability of information does not ensure its use by those who could use it.

An example of a successful integrated community development project in Senegal with a forestry component was identified as having the following elements (Hoskins, 1980):

  1. Cooperation between funding agencies
  2. Local project director
  3. In-depth sociological study of potential development
  4. Self selection of villages by positive response in the area
  5. An extension agent and forester in the community
  6. Good communication between parties
  7. Development priorities chosen by area residents
  8. Villagers identified current problems
  9. Villagers selected species, and assured they owned the trees
  10. Work Schedule arranged with a forester

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.

Continue ... 3. Review of community forestry experience with tree seed

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