Partly due to the worldwide upsurge in industrial demand for timber, the number of planted forests has increased ten-fold in the last 20 years. These planted forests currently comprise only about 5% of the world’s forest area, but supply 35% of industrial logs and have critical roles to play in releasing pressure on natural forests, mitigating climate change, assisting people’s livelihoods and contributing to national policies of development.
Just over 60% of the world’s planted forests are now located in Asia. The rapid expansion of planted forest cover in the region in recent years is due largely to large-scale forestation programmes, especially in China, Viet Nam and India. However, planted forests are often troubled by social conflict, especially when they prohibit rural households from using land important to their livelihoods. Even when local people are enlisted by the state to participate in government-led planting programmes, strict control of their land-use options tends to undermine their enthusiasm for maintaining the planted forest lots.
Avoiding land conflict and encouraging enthusiasm for planting amongst local people are critical to the sustainable management of planted forests. This requires a reconsideration of existing company managed and government-led forestation models and greater state support for contract-type (between local people and companies) and people-centred approaches. This does not negate the importance of governments and private companies in promoting planted forest development, but it does open up space for local people to influence and benefit from plantation design and management.