Social Forestry means development of forests on community land solely to be used by the community to meet their needs. There are two main objectives in social forestry:
1. Using the public and common land of the village to produce in a decentralised manner firewood, fodder and small timber to meet the local needs (particularly poor people) and also to conserve soil and water.
2. Reducing the pressure on natural forests. In the absence of alternate resources village people tend to exploit the natural forests. This is unavoidable as their needs and that of their live stock (grazing cattle) has to be met by the nearby forests. If an alternate forest is developed with their co-operation they would also be interested in protecting the natural forests.
Social forestry involves the following steps:
(i) Educating the villagers the necessity to protect and conserve the natural forests. In particular they need to be told the vital role forests play in the conversation of water and soil.
(ii) Villagers, school children and landless labourers of the village should be made to directly involve themselves in social forestry programmes.
(iii) A nursery should be developed near the village to grow useful, fast growing plants keeping in mind the need of fire wood, fodder, fruits, mannure etc.
(iv) Identification of suitable village land to develop social forestry.
(v) Proper utilization of the products of social forestry should be made available to all particularly the need.
In our country social forestry is practiced in a big way and about 160 million hectares of land is under social forestry programme.
Advantages of social forestry:
1. Educates the people about the need to protect and conserve natural forests.
2. Provides them alternate source of firewood and fodder so that they need not go to the natural forests.
3. Species selected for social forestry like Acacia, grow very fast and produce usable biomass within a short period of time.
4. Protects the natural forest from grazing animals.
5. Waste land in and around the village will be put to proper use.
6. Involvement of rural people in the social forestry programme would generate in them a natural interest towards the conservation of natural forests.
7. Provides land labourers an avenue of employment.