According to a World Bank report (2004), approximately 60 million indigenous people are almost wholly dependent on forests. 350 million people depend on forests for a high degree for subsistence and income, and about 1.2 billion people rely on agroforestry farming systems. This population fail to make decent living, cannot afford regular nutritious food, do not have adequate shelter or access to health services and have no access to safe drinking-water. In adopting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the countries of the world have set a target of halving global poverty by 2015. Given the importance of forests for the rural poor, it is recognized that forests can be a resource for poverty reduction.
The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA), a scientific undertaking involving over 1300 experts working in 95 countries, indicates that ” a large and increasing number of forest ecosystems, populations and species are threatened globally or being lost due to the loss and degradation of forest habitats, and that this reduction of forest biodiversity will be aggravated by the effects of climate change. Tropical moist forests are home to the largest number of threatened species of any biome. It is assumed that numerous, but not yet scientifically described, species are presently being lost together with their tropical forest habitats.” (MEA 2005)
According to the definition adopted by the general assembly of the United Nations (2007), Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) is dynamic and evolving concept aims to maintain and enhance the economic, social and environmental value of all types of forests, for the benefit of present and future generations. The 7 elements of SFM are - (i) extent of forest resources; (ii) forest biological diversity; (iii) forest health and vitality; (iv) productive functions of forest resources; (v) protective functions of forest resources; (vi) socio-economic functions of forests; and (vii) legal, policy and institutional framework. (Source: UN 2008, Resolution 62/98)
By a recent statistics, India has only 2.5% of the world’s geographic area and 1.85% of the world’s forest area, we have 17% of the world’s population and 18% of livestock population. This makes India the most challenging and urgent case for SFM – which will enable us to secure livelihood for the communities living off the forest and also enable us to conserve biological diversity. GA team, by its multi-faceted experience and knowledge of the terrain is well equipped to transform forests into sustainable economic zones.