Social Forestry and Agroforestry

Mains Marks Booster     5th August 2023        


  • The practice of managing forests for the benefit of local communities is known as social forestry. It entails activities like forest management, forest protection, and afforestation of deforested lands with the aim of enhancing rural, environmental, and social development.


  • The primary objective of social forestry is to expand the number of trees and plantations to satisfy people's increasing demands for wood, food, fuel, and other necessities while easing strain and dependence on traditional forest regions. It also attempts to safeguard agriculture from unfavorable climatic circumstances.
  • Social forestry is an idea and a practice that has been around for centuries, but because of its advantages, such as its capacity to address the problems caused by global warming, it is continuously acquiring new dimensions.

Types of social forestry

  • Agro-forestry: Agro-forestry combines tree growth and agriculture to provide commercial agricultural and tree products. It can be separate or fully integrated within a single business enterprise, offering economic, social, and ecological benefits.
  • This social forestry is ideal for individuals looking to venture into farm forestry while maintaining existing agricultural enterprises.
  • Farm forestry: Farm forestry aims to manage trees for specific purposes within a farming context, typically timber plantations on private land. This setup can be applied to various enterprises using different tree parts.
  • Benefits include animal shelter, diversified earnings, improved living environments, increased plantation capital value, soil and water health improvement, sustainable natural resource management, and biodiversity enhancement.
  • Extension forestry: Urban areas and the majority of dwelling estates are becoming more and more commonplace for extension forestry. Trees are planted along the edges of canals, highways, railroads, and wastelands as part of extension forestry.
  • This kind of social forestry is helpful in establishing woods on public wastelands, panchayat properties, and common village lands.
  • Community forestry: Community forestry involves village members collectively managing community land, involving the local population in planning, managing, and harvesting forest crops.
  • This approach aims to increase involvement and reward local people while balancing between outside and community interests.

Advantages of social forestry

  • Biodiversity enrichment: Tree growth in community lands increases biodiversity value, providing habitat for various animals, plants, and wildlife. Social forestry benefits by providing food, shelter, and promoting plant growth, increasing food varieties for animals and local people.
  • Carbon removal: Trees are crucial in the process of removing carbon from the environment, which helps to combat the effects of global warming. As they expand, trees absorb carbon dioxide from the air and so remove it.
  • The most effective approach to cut carbon dioxide in urban areas is thought to be social forestry. By lowering the demand for power, it also indirectly cuts carbon dioxide emissions.
  • Soil conservation: Social forestry benefits communities by promoting soil conservation, improving agricultural activities, and preventing soil erosion through tree roots holding soil in place.
  • Improve air quality and health: Trees not only remove carbon dioxide from the environment but also improve air quality. An acre of trees generates enough oxygen for up to 18 people and absorbs harmful gases, reducing health issues like asthma and breathing difficulties.


  • Social forestry plantations often choose species that are inappropriate for the ecological setting.
  • Indian farmers often oppose social forestry due to their small landholdings and lack of agricultural insurance and marketing assistance.
  • Social forestry in India has been diverted from agricultural land for incentives that threaten food security and agriculture.
  • Lack of private sector participation.
  • Women are excluded, and communities and farmers view it as a cash-generating exercise rather than meeting basic needs.

Social forestry initiatives by India

  • Through initiatives and programmes like Nagar Van Yojana, School Nursery Yojana, Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA), National Afforestation Programme (NAP), National Mission for a Green India (GIM), etc. that encourage urban forestry, tree plantation on vacant lands, and bunds on farm lands, among other things, the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change promotes plantation throughout the nation, including various metropolitan cities.


  • The Gandhian concept of economic growth and community development includes social forestry as a critical component. The social advantages and the extra resources produced in this way might act as stepping stones on the road to self-sufficiency.
  • Further, it also offers several elements for agricultural growth and development as India's heavily reliant on agriculture economy seeks diversification. To overcome obstacles and promote the cause of social forestry, all stakeholders—including the public and private sectors—must collaborate.
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