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The Gujarat community forestry project

Background and Outline of New Project

Throughout the preceding discussion frequent reference was made to the Community Forestry Project in Gujarat (IBRD 1979a, 1979b). This project is discussed here in more detail because it illustrates the typical constraints to tree planting within the ASAL and the various methods used in attempts to overcome these constraints.

As discussed above, the proportion of forested land in the state is small (10 per cent), and the demands for forest products are great. To provide fuelwood alone 1.5 million ha of plantations will be required in the 20 years from 1980 to the turn of the century. In addition to yielding major and minor products such an extent of forests could offer employment possibilities far in excess of the current 7 million work-days per year demanded for primary production and materially assist in the improvement of pastures and in the rehabilitation of degraded agricultural lands, deforested ravines, and other local centres of desertification.

The rehabilitation and improved management of the existing forest estate would contribute to the forest economy of the state but the forest is not distributed equally throughout the state and, for a more equitable distribution of resources, new forests must be established. To minimize transport costs for wood products and to provide the other forest benefits of climate amelioration, soil and water protection, and pasture or fodder improvement, these new forests must be located near the populations requiring them and hence should be planned and managed at a local level. Some 6 million ha of land are suitable for community forestry plantations; eventually 10 per cent of village commons and other wastelands- which encompass barren and uncultivable land (2.7 million ha), permanent pasture and other grazing land (0.8 million ha), and cultivable wasteland (2.3 million ha) 200,000 ha of degraded forest, 60,000 ha of private agricultural lands, and 60,000 ha of strip plantings could be improved.

In Gularat the concept of involving local people in the responsibility and benefits of forestry did not begin with the Eighth World Forestry Congress (1978, Indonesia, of which the theme was "Forests for People"). Within the state, schemes were established in 1949 to create Forest Labour Cooperation Societies eliminating exploitation of Government forest reserves by private timber contractors, thus increasing financial returns to the forest labourers and encouraging tribal people to recognize the importance of rational management and conservation of the indigenous forest.

Since 1951, plantation forestry has been emphasized, including reforestation of degraded forests and agricultural lands and afforestation of eroded lands and the edges of coasts and deserts, including the establishment of fast growing species. Largely due to the personal dedication of M.K. Dalvi (later Inspector General of Forests for India), a major community forestry programme was initiated in 1969 to establish fuelwood plantations along roadsides and canal banks. Following the success of this initial programme the Gujarat Forest Department created, in 1974, a separate Community Forestry Wing to deal with the establishment of plantations on public and private lands outside the forest reserves, and the first village plantations or common lands were planted. By 1978, 33,000 ha had been planted including 12,000 ha of village woodlots (8 ha in each of 1,500 villages), 10,000 ha alongside roads and canals, and 10,000 ha of degraded forests (see table 7 and fig. 8).

TABLE 7. Gujarat State Plantation Establishment, 1974-1978


Area planted (ha)

Category of plantation 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 Total
1. Traditional forestry
Plantations of economic and
industrial importance
3,873 4,054 5,045 5,400 5,250 23,622
Plantations of fast-growing
1,439 1,975 2,046 2,185 1,995 9,640
Plantations on coastal borders 364 330 455 602 820 2,571
Afforestation on desert borders 400 265 1,350 1,560 1,600 5,175
Soil and moisture conservation
and afforestation in denuded
6,461 5,569 4,208 5,400 8,725 30,363
Mixed plantations - - 280 304 1,231 1,815
River valley project 137 690 733 640 914 3,114
Total 12,674 12,883 14,117 16,091 20,535 76,300
2. Community forestry
Roadside and canalside 1,151 1,663 1,646 2,939 2,882 10,281
Village woodlots 924 2,480 2,434 2,996 3,910 12,744
Reforestation of degraded
forests - - 2,000 4,000 4,000 10,000
Total 2,075 4,143 6,080 9,935 10,792 33,025
3. Drought-prone area programme (Ministry of Rural Development)
Roadsides 616 500 - - - 1,116
Afforestation 2,600 8,721 8,130 6,307 8,147 33,905
Village forests 250 610 254 186 140 1,440
Soil and moisture conservation 16,510 6,032 - 1,877 - 24,419
Grassland development 200 2,542 5,743 1,490 8,627 18,602
Total 20,176 18,405 14,127 9,860 16,914 79,482
Grand total (ha) 34,925 35,431 34,324 35,886 48,241 188,807
4. Farm forestry
Seedlings distributed (millions) 8.5 8.5 7.5 25.0 36.5 86.0

The success of this work has led to the demand for its expansion to other villages and hence to the request for financial assistance from the World Bank (IBRD 1979a, 1979b). The five-year project period provides for plantation of 37,000 ha of village woodlots, 30,000 ha of degraded forests, 1,000 ha of private, eroded, agricultural lands, and 37,000 ha of strip plantings alongside roads, canals, and railways. In addition it provides for tree nurseries for project needs and free distribution, maintenance of 25,000 ha of existing plantations, staff and facilities, and the construction of 10,000 smokeless stoves and 1,000 cremation facilities to make more efficient use of available fuelwood and to replace the 1 million tons of animal dung that are currently burned each year,

Demonstration and Public Awareness

The early plantations were established by the Forest Department on state-owned land at the sides of roads, canals, and some railways. These naturally passed close to rural communities and provided the first visible proof that trees could survive, grow, and provide shade and products on what previously was unproductive ground. They also improved the Forest Department's image among the public. Although initially there was some confusion and inefficiency because of the varied responsibility for these lands and trees (Revenue Department, Public Works Department, Railways Board, Forest Department), these are gradually being taken over by the Forest Department and gazetted as protected forest; their major value was the demonstration that trees will grow provided they are protected against cattle. An extensive publicity campaign was initiated to raise public awareness of the benefits of trees through the press, radio, social workers, and the normal forestry extension functions of education, demonstration of techniques, provision of material, and monitoring of progress. (These demand an increasing number and level of skill of extension officers.)


The main original constraint to fencing, was the cost, but now the psychological barrier of cheap fences made of split bamboo and thin wire is enough to ensure that herded cattle are kept out of the plantations by the cattle owner. (It is doubtful if the individual, unattended cow would recognize the nicety of a psychological barrier but these are infrequent in the rural areas and all of the people in participating villages would be inclined to chase wandering animals away from village plantations.) In the case of village woodlots, live fences, particularly of thorny Euphorbia species including E. royaliana, are cheap, fast growing, and effective although more preplanning is required to have them established before the trees are planted. (In contrast, barbedwire fences are used by the Directorate of Afforestation and Grassland Development for Arid Areas in Rajasthan, and for these both the initial costs and the maintenance charges are direct constraints on tree planting.) For roadside plantings an outer row of thorny Prosopis species is commonly used as an added protection for interior rows of Acacia nilotica and Albizia lebbeck in saline parts of Gujarat.

Involvement of the People

It is one thing to demonstrate that afforestation is technically feasible on government land; it is quite another to make it attractive for local participation. While the programme of attracting private landowners has been called "a runaway success" (see below), and the community forestry programme has received considerable and favourable attention, overall village participation rates are surprisingly low. A recent report estimates that only about 14 per cent of Gujarat's panchayats are participating (Noronha, 1980, p. 6).

This low rate is surprising in part because of the different approaches used to encourage participation. Talukas (subdistricts) accrue 50 per cent of the proceeds of sales of poles and timber from plantings alongside the road, rail, or canal, and villagers are allowed to collect grass, fodder, fallen wood, and minor produce. Village labour is paid for forestry work either as casual employees within the Community Forestry Wing or as full-time employees within tribal and other socially disadvantaged groups. Village schools are encouraged to raise nursery stock for sale to the Forestry Department, and the children are educated about the principles and benefits of tree cropping. Village forests are established and managed in one of two ways; either the Forestry Department manages them and harvests the products, returning 50 per cent of the sale price to the taluka panchayat, or the villages may become entirely self-helping with only technical advice and perhaps free seedlings from the Forestry Department. The former, called supervised villages, number about 2,500, while the latter, the self-help villages, total around 70.

Noronha (19801 analysed some of the reasons for the apparently slow growth of the community woodlots. He identifies village factionalism as the most important obstacle to the initiation of tree-planting programmes. Other problems described in the study include the panchayats giving higher priority to other needs such as school, water, and sanitation facilities than to forestry; the scarcity of land and labour; and the unwillingness to convert to forests land that is currently needed for grazing or for future uses such as accommodating population growth or land distribution to landless labourers. Some villagers felt that the 50 per cent of returns received by the Forestry Department was too high. Although the scarcity of funds was often cited by officials as a reason for low participation, Noronha observed that many poorer villages had participated in the programme while many richer ones had not, causing him to look elsewhere for relevant factors.

Besides the demonstration effect, Noronha states that dynamic and charismatic leadership has been important in increasing participation. In self-help villages, some village leaders who are respected and trusted by other community members have been able to raise funds and organize efforts for tree planting. Villagers, seeing that trees can be grown profitably, will initiate forests in hopes of raising funds for other community projects, such as schools or sanitary facilities.

Therefore, while the community programme has had some success, social, economic, and political obstacles are retarding its growth. Noronha's analysis is particularly convincing in demonstrating how village socio-economic organization and leadership affects tree-planting efforts. In this regard, he states that village leaders in some cases fail to consult with all sectors in the community, especially the poor and traditionally disadvantaged groups, in deciding whether or not to participate in the forestry programme. Furthermore, he suggests that a problem of distribution may arise shortly as decisions are made on how to distribute the harvests. If harvests are distributed as wood products, such as firewood, then it is likely that all villagers will receive a share. If the harvest is sold, then proceeds most likely will be applied to other needs as determined by the panchayat If this occurs, and Noronha feels it is likely, woodlots would have then failed in their goal of providing for villagers, particularly the poorest ones, fuelwood and other tree products (Noronha 1980, p. 16).

Individual Owners

In addition to the Government and village planting (not all of which will be on arid lands), the Gujarat project is aimed at encouraging individual farmers in the countryside and private individuals and groups in towns to plant trees on their own lands. The farm forestry scheme distributed nearly 86 million free seedlings in 1979, and it is planned to continue offering 30 million annually. To date little is known about their survival and growth; monitoring is required in future.

For the afforestation of private agricultural lands a variety of contractual arrangements are being tested-including the provision of cash advances equal to the estimated value of the agricultural crop, which is then replaced by trees planted and monitored by the Community Forestry Wing.

Multiple Yields

Any plantation established in any part of the ASAL where productive land is scarce in relation to human and cattle populations should provide an array of products and services. While the species and techniques chosen must ensure soil and water conservation and provide shade and shelter as services, they must also yield the immediate requirements of food, fodder, fuel, and poles.

Within the Gujarat project, approximately 90 per cent of all trees planted will yield fuelwood and poles; the remainder will be mainly fruit trees in village woodlots. Approximately 30 per cent of fuelwood trees will also produce leaf fodder, and in some areas entrepreneurs have already contracted for the collection of toothpicks (Rs 1,000 ha -1 years ). The mere fencing of an area against cattle has demonstrably increased the yields of fodder from naturally occurring grasses, and these may be increased further by the sowing of genetically improved grasses and legumes between the rows of trees and by improved pasture management le.g., O.N. Kaul 1977).

Research and Training

The need for continued research in the choice of species and management for the ASAL was discussed above, particularly the importance of the international programme of trials of species and provenances (FAO/IBPGR 1980). The Gujarat project includes provision for a small research institute (with four field stations) staffed by five professionals including an agrostologist, a horticulturist, an ecologist, a soil scientist, and a seed-testing officer. While aiming to increase tree productivity and decrease establishment and maintenance costs, the research group will be involved in monitoring farm forestry activities and the effect of plantations on soil nutrients.

Provision is also made for extending training facilities within the state and sending staff for courses in extension methods to other locations within and outside India. Reference was made above to the proposal for a four-week course (see Appendix I), and the Inspector General of Forests for India is encouraging the Forest Research Institute and Colleges, Dehra Dun, to establish an Extension Directorate.


The results of the community forestry achievements to date and those reasonably expected of the new project in Gujarat support the feasibility of tree planting in a range of difficult climatic, edaphic, and social conditions. Various cost-benefit analyses undertaken by World Bank staff show that financial and economic rates of return of various components of the Gujarat programme are acceptable.

After ten years from the start of the new phase many benefits are evident. Average annual production of fuelwood from village woodlots alone is 386,000 tons. Besides providing fuelwood, the programme has contributed toward meeting needs for poles, fodder, and other wood products. However, it should be recognized that these benefits have not always been distributed in an equitable manner among the targeted population.

In addition to conservation of 15,800 metric tons of fuelwood through the use of improved stoves and crematoria, 105,000 ha of underutilized land will be made productive with the restoration and conservation of soil, and the equivalent of 26,000 people will be fully employed for five years. Above all, perhaps, the "people barrier" has been broken, and both individuals and communities are aware of the benefits of tree planting.

The programme in Gujarat is an excellent example of, though not the only approach to, afforestation and the social and technical methods that may be used to overcome problems. Constraints still exist, of course. A sociological enquiry in 1980 appears to indicate much more deeply rooted and complex social and institutional constraints to tree growing at a communal level, and a fuller assessment of the sociological aspects seems needed.* Professional and technical staff are needed in greater numbers and with more appropriate training, but people and courses are available. Technical aspects of nursery and field operations can be improved, but research methodology is established; only more trained staff are required to develop the methodology for individual site types in Gujarat and the other ASAL of India. Species are already known for all but the most refractory sites, although more attention must be paid to their genetic variability and selective breeding. Methods of involving individuals and communities in tree planting have been developed, but closer monitoring of tree growth and control of the distribution of benefits are required. Despite these limitations, the programme has shown success and future potential in this area of the ASAL in which the populations traditionally show co-operative ability and marked business acumen. In other parts of the ASAL, where these desiderata are less developed, it is more difficult to overcome the socio-economic constraints even when the technical problems can be defeated. Above all, what is needed in pastoral communities is an integrated approach to rural development in which activities with tree and crop species and their efficient use are paralleled by research into the carrying capacity of land, by development of improved breeds of domesticated animals by acceptance of stall feeding, and by public education in the limitation of populations of both domestic animals and man himself either of which may have serious cultural, religious, or political overtones.

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