Deep Narayan Pandey
Introduction to Ethnoforestry
Towards the Equity of Knowledge
Global Status of Ethnoforestry
Why Bother with Ethnoforestry?
Relevance of Ethnoforestry
Examples of Different Types of Indigenous Forest Management
About the Author
Related Editions of The Overstory
The effectiveness of traditional forest management practices has
often been overlooked by the scientific community. This edition of
The Overstory by special guest author Deep Narayan Pandey of the
Indian Institute of Forest Management, Bhopal, India introduces
the importance and application of ethnoforestry.
Equity of Knowledge
Different Types of Indigenous Forest Management
People throughout the world have effective traditional resource
management systems including protection, production and
conservation practices which they have validated over time. Many
of these traditions have been incorporated into modern practices
of scientific forestry by innovative foresters. We can define
ethnoforestry as the creation, conservation, management and use of
forest resources, through continued practice of customary ways by
local communities. Thus, it is specific and appropriate to each
community and environment.
Local knowledge on forests is a revolutionary way to recast our
conventional approach to development. Virtual non-availability of
written material in the subject is the result of long term neglect
of local knowledge on forests by scientific forestry scholarship.
Local knowledge, institutions, policy, empowerment, livelihood
issues and forestry are inter-linked. We need to explore the
operational part of sustainability of natural resources in
association with these issues.
Global Status of Ethnoforestry
Ethnoforestry has mostly been neglected in global forest research
and planning. Some pioneering studies, on various sub-disciplines
of the subject, specifically from India (see, Pandey 1996, and,
Singh and Pandey 1995), China (Menzies 1988), Brazil (Posey 1985),
Ecuador (Irvine 1989) and Vietnam (Poffenberger personal
communication) have appeared only recently. Recently, Asia Forest
Network, based at University of California, has developed a pilot
activity to assist minority Thai communities in the
reestablishment of traditional "Yumpa" Forest Keeper
system in Vietnam. In fact after Chambers (1979) drew attention to
the importance of local knowledge little reference has ever been
made to ethnoforestry.
However, the subject is important to local people, and development
planners alike. We must realize that it enlarges people's range of
choices. Environmental security now lies in integration of local
knowledge and modern learning. Clifford Geertz (1993), in his
famous book, Local Knowledge, demonstrates how local knowledge
remains in dynamic tension with global knowledge. We cannot
analyse policy developments and their implications if we do not
have a more profound understanding of the meaning of forests for
This is not to say that all so-called prescientific societies
lived in a state of ecological balance. Many pleistocene
hunter-gatherer communities are believed to have caused the local
extinction of a number of large mammals through over-exploitation
(Joshi and Gadgil 1991).
Protection Ethnoforestry is also called conservation ethnoforestry.
It includes the maintenance of sacred trees, sacred groves, temple
forest and saffron-sprinkled forests or kesar chhanta forests and
landscapes. Another category is closures or Beed, the wooded areas,
near farmlands and dwelling houses, owned by private people. These
practices have helped to maintain the biodiversity of natural
forests and wild habitats.
Biodiversity conservation practices are as diverse as the cultural
diversity in the world. Indigenous knowledge of local plants,
animals, habitat preference, life-history and resource
availability is socially transmitted from one individual to
another within and across generations (Gadgil, Berkes and Folke
1993), though not necessarily in writings. In addition, there are
examples where communities regulate the use of resource by
restricting the access to resources, and enforcing compliance
through religious belief, ritual and social convention. It is
debatable whether these 'restraints' evolved after trial and error
or as systematic prescriptions. However, it is certain that these
restraints definitely contributed for the cause of biodiversity
Why Bother with Ethnoforestry?
The dynamics of social reciprocity in a poor and marginalised
community is almost beyond the capacity of an outsider to imagine
(Seeland 1997). The implementation of joint forest management with
success in India has proved that those for whom the forests matter
most can properly manage forests and sustainable livelihoods. And
they may not be the so-called scientific foresters. They are the
Ethnoforestry is very useful for participatory forest management.
We have also proved and learnt to a great extent that local
knowledge can be revitalized and operationalized within the
context of social development and participatory forestry. Even
more important, ethnoforestry saves people from the danger of
becoming the subordinate participants in their community land use.
It prevents people from the danger of further marginalisation, for
it regards them as the producers of development, and not the mere
spectators of it.
Relevance of Ethnoforestry
I am convinced that our application of knowledge for fieldwork has
to be broadened to incorporate local knowledge in order to analyze
the policy development and its implications on the life and
livelihood of poor people. Forestry students need more
understanding of the social and cultural context in which
scientific forestry is developed and applied.
Social and political processes at the level of communities
reflecting different interests in forests require more attention
in policy analysis. National regulation can only be successful if
they are meaningful to and accepted by indigenous people. At the
global level, forests have become part of worldwide concern and
subject to political efforts in order to develop a more consistent
cooperation on their management. Policy research has to address
such evolutions and their possible impact at the national and
local level (Schmithusen 1997).
Ethnoforestry is the creation, conservation, management and
utilization of forest resources by local communities through
traditional practices and folk beliefs. Ethnoforestry is not to be
confused with participatory forestry or joint forest management.
Protections provided to habitats are classified as protection
ethnoforestry. Traditional methods of regeneration of livelihood
species by people are classified as plantation ethnoforestry.
These include direct sowing, bamboo rhizome planting, cutting,
nursing of wildlings and closures. Traditional methods of growing
trees and crops in farmlands are called ethnoagroforestry.
Ethnoforestry will deliver vital and incomparably significant
results for the future of world forestry. The reasons are many:
1. Ethnoforestry can ensure equity of knowledge between village
communities and the scientific forestry community. It will stop
exploitation at the hands of so-called scientific community.
Equity of knowledge alone can, ultimately, make the forestry
2. Ethnoforestry can provide location-specific solutions. Local
knowledge is easily transmitted, used by large section of the
society, does not require costly consultancy and other input, and
thus, minimises possibility of corruption.
3. Ethnoforestry can reduce the costs of tropical afforestation.
Economizing world's tropical forest plantations through
ethnoforestry is a distinct possibility.
4. Ethnoforestry is not to be confused by participatory forestry
or joint forest management. Ethnoforestry represents the
traditional ecological wisdom of world's indigenous people.
Protected natural forests:
Sacred forests/sacred groves
abodes of (ancestral) spirits Asia, Africa
ceremonial & rainmaking forests Africa, India
shrine/temple forests S. Asia
sacred corridors India
spring forests Tanzania
riverine vegetation Borneo, Kenya
clan forests Borneo
village forests Himalaya region
tribe/clan/lineage grazing woodlands Africa
forest belts T'Olche, Mexico
protected tree species Taboo trees, pantropical
Resource-enriched natural forests:
Individually claimed trees
Tree marking, S.E. Asia
Enriched natural forests
enriched & expanded forest islands & gallery forests,
enriched rainforest groves, Borneo
casuarina fallows, New Guinea
rattan fallow cultivation fallows enriched w/ fruit/tree S.E. Asia,
Amazon palm fallows Amazon, W. Africa, East Indonesia
Reconstructed (natural) forests:
Ifugao woodlots, Philippines
Mixed damar gardens, Sumatra
Mixed fruit and rubber gardens, Borneo/Sumatra
Planted temple forests India, Thailand
Defense forests around human habitations, Sahel
Village fortresses, Guinea
Home gardens Pantropical
Smallholder plantations Pre-Hispanic cacao plantations, Mexico
Mixed damar/coffee gardens, Sumatra
Mixed rubber gardens, Indonesia
Source: Wiersum (1997). For an online version of this table with
references see Ethnoforestry: Indigenous Knowledge on Forests,
About the Author
Chambers, Robert (19) (ed.) Rural Development: Whose Knowledge
Counts? IDS Bulleton 10(2)
Gadgil, Madhav and Berkes, F. and Folke, Carl (1993) Indigenous
Knowledge for biodiversity conservation. Ambio. 22(2-3):266-270.
Geertz, Clifford (1993) Local Knowledge. Fontana Press, Londan, pp
Gupta, Anil K. (1987) Why poor don't cooperate : Lessions from
traditional organisations with implication for modern
organisaitons. In : Clare G. Wanger (ed.) Reserach, Relationship,
Politics and Practice of Social Research. George Allen and Unwin,
London, 1987 pp 111-127.
Irvine, D. (1989). Succession management and resources
distribution in an Amazonian rain forest. Adv. Econ. Bot.
Joshi, N.V. and Gadgil, Madhav (1991) On the role of refugia in
promoting prudent use of biological resources. (quoted in Gadgil
and Guha, 1992).
Menzies, N. K. (1988) Trees, Fields, and People: The Forests of
China from The Seventeenth to The Nineteenth Century.
Pandey, Deep N. (1996a) Beyond Vanishing Woods: Participatory
Survival Options for Wildlife, Forests and People. CSD and
Himanshu, Mussoorie/New Delhi/Udaipur, pp.222.
Pandey, Deep N. (1996b) Village Common Fund . In: Kurup, V. S. P.,
(ed.) New Voices in Indian Forestry. SPWD New Delhi, pp 288-292
Pandey, Deep N. (1996c) Plantation Forestry: India must Change to
Advance Closure Technique. Paper presented at the JFM National
Network Meeting, October 1996, New Delhi.
Pandey, Deep N.(1996d) Ethnoforestry, Prasashanika, 23(2): 29-47
Pandey, Deep N. (1997) Ethnoforestry by Indigenous People. Paper
presented in XI World Forestry Congress, Antalya, Turkey
Pandey, Deep N. and Samar Singh (1995a) Aravalli Ke Deovan.
Rajasthan Patrika, 21 May, 1995.
Pandey, Deep N.and Samar Singh (1995b) Traditions of Sacred Groves
in Aravallis. Wastelands News, (Hindi), April-June 1995.pp3-6
Posey, D. A.(1985) Indigenous management of tropical ecosystems:
The case of the Kayapo Indians of the Brazilian Amazon.
Agroforestry Systems , 3, 139-158
Schmithusen, Franz (1997) Local Knowledge on Forests, In: Seeland,
Klaus and Schmithusen, Franz (eds.) Local Knowledge of Forests and
Forest Uses among Tribal Communities in India, Department Wald-und
Seeland, Klaus and Schmithusen, Franz (1997) (eds.) Local
Knowledge of Forests and Forest Uses among Tribal Communities in
India, Department Wald-und Holzforschung, Zurich.
Wiersum, K.F. (1997) Indigenous exploitation and management of
tropical forest resources: an evolutionary continuum in
forest-people interactions. Agriculture, Ecosystems and
Environment. 63: 1, 1-16
Deep Narayan Pandey is Associate Professor of Ecosystem Management
and Technical Forestry at the Indian Institute of Forest
Management, Bhopal, India. He is coordinator for the International
Network on Ethnoforestry, the Asia Forest Network in South Asia
and the Master of Philosophy Programme on Natural Resource
Management. Deep Narayan Pandey is devoted to cause of the
sustainability of forests and livelihood security of indigenous
communities and works extensively with communities for protection
of forests, afforestation, entitlements to biomass, and
environmental protection in ecologically threatened areas. Dr.
Pandey can be reached at: IIFM, PO Box No. 357, Nehru Nagar,
Bhopal-462 003, India; Tel: 91 755 775716; Fax: 91 755 772878;
e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org ;
web site: <http://education.vsnl.com/deep
This article is excerpted with kind permission of the author from
_ETHNOFORESTRY Local Knowledge for Sustainable Forestry and
Livelihood Security_ by Deep Narayan Pandey, Himanshu Publications,
Udaipur/New Delhi, 1998 (online edition 1999), web site: <http://education.vsnl.com/deep>.
The included table of examples from Wiersum, K.F. (1997), is
adapted from an online version presented in Ethnoforestry:
Indigenous Knowledge on Forests, web site: <http://www.forestguru.com/Introduction.htm>.
The International Network on Ethnoforestry <http://www.inef.org>
Introduction to Ethnoforestry produced in association with Winrock
International is comprehensive and excellent: <http://www.forestguru.com>
The International Network on Ethnoforestry peer group e-mail list
and archives: <http://groups.yahoo.com/group/inef>
Indian Institute of Forest Management focus on sustainable forest
and natural resource management: <http://www.iifm.org>
Editions of The Overstory
The Overstory #53--Nontimber Forest Products--An Introduction <http://www.agroforestry.net/overstory/overstory53.html>
The Overstory #51--Protecting and Expanding Traditional
Agroforests in the Pacific <http://www.agroforestry.net/overstory/overstory51.html>
The Overstory #49--Traditional Pacific Island Agroforestry Systems
The Overstory #34--Forest Islands, Kayapo Example <http://www.agroforestry.net/overstory/overstory34.html>
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