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close this bookObstacles to Tree Planting in Arid and Semi-Arid lands: Comparative Case Studies from India and Kenya (UNU, 1982, 63 p.)
close this folder1. Introduction and purpose of the study
View the documentThe United Nations University programme
View the documentObjective of the study
View the documentChoice of study areas
View the documentDefinitions and distribution of arid and semi-arid lands
View the documentBenefits of trees-the "4-E Package"
View the documentRecent trends in forestry

Recent trends in forestry

Professional foresters were traditionally conservationists; indeed, throughout British Commonwealth countries, senior staff are still called Conservators of Forests, In many cases this conservation implied gazetting large areas of natural forest as Government reserves and forbidding access by the public or limiting removal of products; it required a policing function of the Forest Department, often causing the animosity of local populations and lack of awareness both of total forest benefits and of the need for public concern with forest maintenance.

Recent rapid increases in population size and personal expectations have placed great pressures on natural forest throughout the tropics and subtropics, particularly where land is in such short supply that the fallow period of traditional "slash and burn" shifting cultivation is reduced below the limit for site regeneration (e.g., see Kunstadter et al. 1978). Although the effects of population pressure are most commonly experienced in the moist tropical forest (to the extent that in some countries of South-East Asia 30 per cent of officially gazetted Government forest reserves are now under illegal agricultural occupation, and many reserves are being officially relinquished to satisfy the demands of landless rural people), similar trends are now being experienced in more open savannah woodlands of drier areas. In the arid and semi-arid areas, on lands given over mainly to grazing, human populations have remained reasonably constant and small, but animal numbers have increased (for family wealth, for insurance against loss, and for sale to neighbouring towns); natural forests have been reduced to relics by a combination of grazing, fire, and exploitation.

For all these situations the reintroduction of trees is an important step towards rehabilitating degraded sites, protecting soil and water, preventing further desertification, and satisfying population demands.

Throughout the present century there has been an almost exponential increase in plantation forestry (and this is expected to continue in the tropics to the end of the century; Lanly and Clement 1979), particularly with exotic conifers and eucalypts, mainly for saw timber or pulp, and often supported by international agencies' loans and assistance. Although often subject to criticism (frequently unjustified) on the grounds of increased water utilization or soil degradation, this type of plantation will continue to be necessary on economic grounds. Nevertheless, the benefits of such forestry accrue mainly to Government or to large companies and not directly to rural individuals or populations.

Throughout the 1970s there was increasing awareness of the need to benefit rural development more directly by encouraging tree planting at the smallholder and community levels and by using trees that could provide more than one benefit (multipurpose trees, e.g., fodder and fuel), and system that allowed multiple uses of limited land (agro-forestry systems, including agro-pastoral-silvicultural combinations).

This increasing awareness was acknowledged in the theme of the 1978 World Forestry Congress (Jakarta), "Trees for People," and by the creation of the International Council for Research in Agro-forestry (ICRAF, Nairobi) It is reflected in the activities of the United Nations University itself (agro-forestry, fuelwood, arid zone development) and by the revised policies of the FAO (1978), the World Bank (Draper 1977; Keil 1977; Spears 1978; IBRD 1979a), the Asian Development Bank (ADB 1978), and many multilateral and bilateral assistance agencies. (See also Eckholm 1979; King 1978, 1979; Sanger et al. 1977.)

Throughout the tropical and developing world, there is therefore wide interest in tree growing and, for the arid zone in particular, the need for trees is great, but the obstacles to tree planting are also considerable.