Social forestry means the management and protection of forests and afforestation on barren lands with the purpose of helping in the environmental, social and rural development. The National Commission on Agriculture (1976) has classified social forestry into three categories.
The main thrust of social forestry is to reduce pressure on the traditional forest areas by developing plantation of fuel wood, fodder and grasses. The practice of social forestry has become very popular during the last three decades.
This need for a social forestry scheme was felt as India has a dominant rural population that still depends largely on fuelwood and other biomass for their cooking and heating. This demand for fuel wood will not come down but the area under forest will reduce further due to the growing population and increasing human activities.
There were 5components of Social forestry -Urban forestry, Rural forestry, Agro forestry, Community Forestry and Farm forestry.
- Urban forestry pertains to the raising and management of trees on public and privately owned lands in and around urban centres such as green belts, parks, roadside avenues, industrial and commercial green belts, etc.
- Rural forestry lays emphasis on promotion of agro-forestry and community-forestry.
- Agro-forestry is the raising of trees and agriculture crops on the same land inclusive of the waste patches. It combines forestry with agriculture, thus, altering the simultaneous production of food, fodder, fuel, timber and fruit. Community forestry involves the raising of trees on public or community land such as the village pasture and temple land, roadside, canal bank, strips along railway lines, and schools etc.
- Community forestry programme aims at providing benefits to the community as a whole. Community forestry provides a means under which the people of landless classes can associate themselves in treeraising and thus, get those benefits which otherwise are restricted for landowners.
- Farm Forestry is a term applied to the process under which farmers grow trees for commercial and non-commercial purposes on their farm lands. Forest departments of various states distribute seedlings of trees free of cost to small and medium farmers. Several lands such as the margins of agricultural fields, grasslands and pastures, land around homes and cow sheds may be used for raising trees under non- commercial farm forestry.