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  Social and commercial forestry

Social forestry can be defined as "forestry designed and applied to meet local social, household, and environmental needs and to favour local economic development. It is implemented by, or with, the participation of communities".

There are 3 main areas in which social forestry is seen to be a valid development intervention:

Environmental: Many areas throughout the African Continent are in the throes of a severe environmental and human crisis, with rural areas in particular exhibiting the pressing problems of poverty, disease, hunger, and environmental degradation. One core problem of environmental degradation is deforestation, which results in changed soil properties due to increased temperature, exposure to rainfall, and altered litter input, leading to increased soil erosion and a decrease in soil fertility. Tree planting via social forestry has the potential to help address some of these conditions.

Economic: In many rural and urban areas unemployment is endemic, and poverty is a reality with many families operating in a financial survival mode. Social forestry is seen by many as offering a development intervention that offers a chance for people to generate income for themselves, through activities aimed at food and tree product production.

Energy: Energy for heating, lighting, and cooking is a basic need for everyone. Today people have access to a variety of energy sources, including coal, paraffin, batteries, fuelwood, and electricity. Nevertheless, many millions of Africans still depend on traditional energy resources such as fuelwood, dung, and crop residues to meet their energy needs. It is in order to address this that social forestry interventions aimed at fuel supply have also been developed.

Social forestry is important because it offers very promising solutions to help meet the energy needs of people, combat erosion, increase agricultural production, and provide employment opportunities, as well as enabling people to grow trees for food, fodder, and other uses. Democritus has extensive experience in social forestry planning, implementation, and monitoring with team members having been involved in a number of major programmes over the past decade.


In the commercial forestry sector Democritus benefits from the fact that South Africa is one of the major plantation timber producers in the world. Our team member for this sector is a former senior forestry planner from the South African Department of Water Affairs and Forestry. This individual is highly experienced in hydrological & catchment management & planning for forestry, new afforestation planning and strategic forestry planning.