Poverty can be defined as the state of non fulfillment of minimum requirements of food, shelter, clothing which are the components of basic needs of the people. It refers to forms of economic, social and psychological deprivation occurring among people lacking sufficient ownership, control or access to resources fro minimum required level of living. Hence the World Bank proposes to attack poverty in three distinct ways: promoting opportunities, facilitating empowerment, and enhancing security. (World Bank 2001). Social forestry addresses this concept of poverty in all these three different ways.
Social forestry refers to carrying out a number of specific forest management objectives with the local participation and aiming at fulfillment of local needs for forest products and services. Forests reduce poverty in two ways, by providing tangible benefits as well as by providing intangible benefits. Tangible benefits refer to the food, shelter, cloths, construction materials and mulch. Besides meeting their basic needs, they provide gainful employment and income through selling of minor products to external market. Intangible benefits consist of Carbon sequestration, Replacement of fossil fuels, Water conservation, Soil conservation as well as Aesthetic and ecotourism. These services provide additional financial benefits to the involving communities.
When considering this issue on Sri Lankan perspective National Forest Policy and forestry Sector Master Plan have promoted the concept of social forestry with the active participation of forest fringe communities. Several social forestry programmes have been taken place in Sri Lankan history from 1982 up to now. Forest resource management project and Sri Lanka - Australia natural resource management project are more significant here. By establishing farmer’s woodlots, reforestation of degraded lands, increased ecotourism and promotion of marketing opportunities have brought additional income along with increasing the living standards of the community.
Recent policy shifts and multilateral forestry development projects have attempted to reintegrate communities with the public sector, however it is apparent that fundamental transfers of authority to local groups have not yet taken place nor the legal steps been made to allow this to happen. Because state has generally left rural committees out of forestry sector decision making. To avoid this circumstance, the forest fringe communities must integrate to decision making processes as well as it is necessary to formulate a policy that is based on the grass root level needs and is implementable.
No country can improve its quality of life and standard of living unless its human resources are wedded to natural resources. Hence, if the concepts of social forestry are taken place effectively, it truly can contribute to total poverty reduction in near future……