The History of Social Forestry in Pakistan: An Overview

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Mirza B. Baig
Shabbir Shabbir
Nowshad Khan
Imtiaz Ahmad
Gary S. Straquadine

Abstract

Social forestry is the planting of trees or shrubs aiming at the well-being and betterment of local communities. This specific branch of forestry is capable of ensuring the economic, ecological, and social benefits to the people. In reality, forests can be managed in much more sustainable fashion by involving rather than alienating local communities. The research findings indicate that more can be done to make sustainable forest management—an economically attractive option for poor local communities. Adverse ecological changes influence communities to move from non-supporting habitats to fertile. The mountain communities of Pakistan largely depend on natural resources to earn their livelihood. Therefore, poverty in these areas is causing depletion of forests. Economic pressures on households near forests and rangelands compel communities to cut trees and overgraze fragile areas. The critical review of forestry history of Pakistan indicates that most of the projects launched from 1970s to 1980s focused on the establishment of plantations but did not address holistic natural forest management. It is positive to report that from the early nineties, the focus changed to “social forestry” whereas in recent years it has shifted to institutional strengthening and reforms, both policy and structural. The review of the country’s forest policies have relied mostly on wishful thinking with almost no role allocated for communities to play rather they have ranged from being negative to neutral for community participation. To devising viable strategies, there is need to review and re-examine the limitations of past programs, learn the lessons from the previous shortcomings in order to alleviate poverty in the country and turn the deprived rural masses into prosperous sustainable communities. The article is an endeavor in this direction.

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