For centuries, individuals and communities have been able to live in harmony with their environment, but during the past decades the rapid growth of populations and the higher expectations which have been generated throughout the world have led to an increase in the use of forests to such an extent that forests in many places have become degraded if they have not been razed to the ground. Moreover, the forest dwellers life has, in many places, become one of misery. Industrial exploitation, while sometimes contributing to national and regional economies, has not benefited the rural poor and has often even led to the impoverishment of agricultural soils that are dependent on the protective value of the forests.
Forestry for Local Community Development is a new people-oriented policy adopted by FAO, the objective of which is to raise the standard of living of the rural dweller, to involve him in the decision making processes which affect his very existence and to transform him into a dynamic citizen capable of contributing to a larger range of activities than he was used to and of which he will be the direct beneficiary. Forestry for Local Community Development is therefore about the rural people and for the rural people. Its ultimate objective is not physical but human. The physical goals which will be set are really means towards achieving the objective of enhancing the lives of human beings. And one of the vehicles which we advocate in order to assist in the achievement of these objectives is forestry.
The first phase of formulating this policy has been completed with the publication of this document, which describes the rural dependence on wood, the major constraints which can be encountered when initiating programmes, and suggests possible solutions and specific forestry practices which can benefit the rural poor.
Forestry for Local Community Development is in many respects a new departure in forest management and forest utilization. It is my sincere hope that this document will assist those who wish to tread this new path, which we believe will lead to the improvement of the quality of life of the rural poor.
Head of the Forestry Department