Forestry is the practice of using and managing resources derived from forests in a sustainable way. Forest resources like timber, firewood, rubber, etc are produced to meet demands and generate income by regenerating degraded forests. It also involves community participation and encourages people to protect forests while deriving benefits from it in a sustainable way.
On the basis of the nature of a forest, the degree and type of its exploitation for human needs, level of participatory management, forestry practices can be divided into following:
Protection Forestry: This is practised in the ecologically fragile and endangered areas. Such areas demand protection from any form of exploitation as even relatively minor disruptions by human activity may result in serious imbalances. Therefore, no commercial exploitative activity is allowed in protected forests. Certain areas may be designated as reserved forests in which limited human activities are carried out.
Productive Forestry: Forests are capable of yielding many products on a sustainable basis. The traditional uses of forests such as tapping rubber, harvesting fruits, oils, medicinal plants, agroforestry are non-destructive in nature, if not overdone. They allow enough time for the forest to regenerate and provide continuous yields over a long time. Many studies have shown that the economic returns from such traditional practices are much higher than returns obtained from logging, shifting cultivation or cattle ranching. Even timber can be harvested on a sustainable basis by employing methods such as strip cutting.
Community Forestry: This is a diverse group of forestry practices which primarily aims at achieving forest conservation with the active participation of local community. Community forestry is defined as forestry which is designed to meet local household and environmental needs and favour local economic development. The relevance of such practices lies in the fact that there is a huge population living in areas contiguous to or adjoining forests. Since they are dependent on the forests for their own survival, they would be highly motivated in preserving these forest resources. In community forestry, professional foresters and other experts help local people in regenerating degraded forests in order to achieve sustainable harvest to meet local needs. Forest conservation, thus, becomes a collective responsibility as well as a participatory effort.
Social Forestry: It includes practices aimed at using public and common lands to produce firewood, fodder and timber in a decentralized way, in order to relieve the pressure on conservation of forests. It embodies the virtues of community involvement and participation in achieving the goal of forest protection along with the development of some degree of self reliance for the local community.
Social forestry programmes are designed to motivate large number of people to plant trees which can supply firewood, timber, grass and provide income and increased benefits to poorer strata of society. It incorporates a wide variety of activities including farmers growing wood to sell or use for firewood and individuals earning income from the gathering, processing and sale of minor forest produce- fruits, nuts, herbs and honey. The advantages of social forestry include opportunities for reforestation, local level management of soil and water resources, maintenance and enhancement of biodiversity and possibilities of eco-tourism. It also contributes to the livelihood of poor by providing food supplement, wood for construction, firewood and fodder. Social forestry also provides job opportunities to local people.
Agro-Forestry: It is the combination of agriculture and forestry technologies to create more diverse, productive, profitable, healthy and sustainable land use systems. It is a land use approach that yields both wood products and crops as it integrates tree growing into farming systems. It has been employed for many years, particularly in the developing countries and is now widely promoted as a main tool in social forestry programmes involving farmers.
In agro-forestry, land is used for agriculture, forestry and animal husbandry simultaneously. Trees and crops may be grown together on the same tract of land in various patterns and cycles. The trees may be planted around the perimeter of a small farm to provide fuel wood and to serve as windbreak. The foliage may be removed for livestock fodder. Trees may also be planted in rows that alternate with crops or they may planted more densely with inter planting of crops. Alley cropping in Nigeria cultivates arable crops between rows of planted trees and shrubs. Garden technique in Sri Lanka, practised in small farms, yields a wide array of crops including coconut, maize, banana and other fruits.
The manifold benefits of agro-forestry includes sustainability, biodiversity, erosion control, pollution control, climate moderation, income generation and biological and economic diversification of the land as well as the rural community.