Evaluation of farmers woodlots in the aspects of growth and effect on farmers
Thilina Jayarathne and Upul Subasinghe
Paper presented for the 14th International Forestry and Environmental Symposium 2009
The total forest cover of Sri Lanka is estimated as 32% from the total land area. More than 50% of this area lies in the dry zone where the original forests have been cleared drastically. Plantation forests are therefore being established particularly with exotics as local species are very slow growing, despite their very high timber value. Teak was the first exotic species introduced to Sri Lanka by Dutch in the 17th century for replanting purpose. Other than planting by Forest Department of Sri Lanka, the other methods of establishing teak plantations were community forestry projects (CFP), and now by participatory forestry projects (PFP).
The objective of the present study was to evaluate the farmers' woodlot programmes to identify the effects on farmers. For this purpose, a questionnaire survey was conducted to obtain information on their socio-economic status and management constraints from Anuradhapura, Thambuttegama, Kekirawa Ranges (Anuradhapura Forest Division), Habarana Range (Polonnaruwa Forest Division) and Galgamuawa Range (Kurunegala Forest Division). The questionnaire was distributed among randomly selected ten farmers of each plantation (altogether 214 plantations).
The results revealed the inadequacy of current lease agreement (25 years) and 100% of the respondents wanted to have an extension varying from 5 to 50 years. Moreover, 98% of the total respondents agreed to implement this programme for a second rotation. Farmers have been given a proper guidance by the government officers during the initial establishment stage of the farmer's woodlots. However, it has become inadequate with the time, especially when pruning and thinning are required. Elephant's damages and lack of water are the major problems faced by the most of the farmers. However, according to the farmers, there were minimum elephant damage after plantations become naturalised as witnessed in the Rambukwewa plantation in the Kekirawa range.
Results and direct observations also indicated that some lands given to establish farmers' woodlots are marginal lands for plant growth. Most of lands also indicated frequent fire and erosion. Since teak needs comparatively more nutrients for plant growth, it is recommended to evaluate the chosen sites for (i) the available nutrient levels, (ii) required timber species to match the site quality and (iii) the required growth rate.
In order to enhance the income of the farmers, it is recommended to start the second cycle of woodlots soon after completing the present one, perhaps with better management techniques. However, the plantations vulnerable for elephant damages should not be replanted using teak unless there is an effective protection system. Otherwise such plantations should gradually be converted to natural dry zone forests by the local species such as Azadirachta indica and Tamarindus indica.