Social Forestry in South Asia : Myths and Realities
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This study focuses on some of the major issues in relation to popular thinking about the theory of social forestry development in South Asia, including deforestation, community participation and appropriate forest policy. The mainstream view has been that deforestation is a process driven by community-based factors. Such views have had implications for formulation and implementation of social forestry projects in developing countries. This paper discusses three case studies from South Asia (India, Nepal and Sri Lanka) on social forestry. It attempts to critically examine the concept as such and analyse the mainstream views that justified the intervention of such afforestation programmes. The successes and failures in addressing the biomass needs through social forestry are discussed in the paper. Lack of good governance and policy support are assumed to be some of the reasons for poor success. National social forestry projects cannot be treated in isolation from the related issues of poverty, local diversities, gender and local cultural values. Success has been limited in terms of reaching the poorest segments of the population – some of whom have actually lost access to common pool resources as a result of social forestry intervention. There is some attitudinal change within the forest department, but it is rarely accompanied with intervention in the underlying power relations, reflecting a continued difficulty in viewing the forest department sociologically. This lack of sociological perspective is also seen in the tendency to focus on just adding resources perceived to be in short supply, but not attempting to remove institutional obstacles.