In the mid 1970s, a number of events combined to draw attention to the importance of forests and trees to rural people and rural development - and to the neglect of many of these links and activities in existing programmes and policies. By the end of the decade, new programmes and projects were being put in place to redress this neglect, and to provide support to tree growing and management at the farm and community level. These initiatives have been gathering pace ever since and now constitute a significant part of total forestry aid.
The purpose of this document is to bring together and synthesize the results of what has been learned about community forestry over the ten years since it first took shape. As a synthesis, it focuses on the main theses and findings that have been advanced. It does not attempt to reproduce the underlying project, case and observational evidence which is abundantly documented in the material from which it draws.
The document is presented in four parts. The first part reviews the reasons why the concern with community forestry arose when it did, the original formulation of the problems and of what was perceived to be needed at that time. It also outlines the main issues that emerged as projects and programmes took shape. The second part summarises what is now known about the ways rural people actually use and depend upon trees. It discusses the consequences of a diminution or degradation of the tree resource on them, and the implications of this enhanced understanding for intervention and support strategies. The third part similarly reviews the state of knowledge about how local women and men can best organise, manage and use trees and tree products. The final part pulls together the main lessons that emerge, and focuses on the implications for further improving the support that governments and aid agencies seek to provide to community forestry.