Almost 3,000 families in Chattogram have collectively earned Tk28 crore for looking after the trees planted by the Chattogram (North and South and coastal) Forest Department – as part of social forestry efforts between 2007 and 2019.
The Forest Department said few people used to be interested in being the beneficiaries of social forestry but, at present, many people desire to be – as they receive a financial reward for doing so.
According to Social Forestry Rules-2004, people living within one to two kilometres of social forestry areas are considered beneficiaries. They are responsible for guarding and looking after the trees. The Forest Department decides on the number of beneficiaries.
Beneficiaries receive 45-55 percent of the amount of a tree sale while 10 percent of the sale goes directly to reforestation efforts.
If the trees are outside forest department areas, beneficiaries get 45 percent. The landowner gets 20 percent, the forest department gets 20 percent and union parishad or corporation gets five percent. The remaining 10 percent is used for reforestation.
"In the last five years, Tk14.2 crore has been distributed in Chattogram Forest Department (South) among beneficiaries who looked after 3,607 hectares of gardens and 71 kilometres of strip gardens," said divisional officer Mozammel Haque Shah Chowdhury at Chattogram Forest Department (South).
Under Chattogram Forest Department (North), 1,084 beneficiaries have been provided Tk12 crore until 2019-20. Additionally, the coastal Forest Department has given Tk1.5 crore to 659 families.
Samsun Nahar, a beneficiary from Chattogram's Fatikchhari, said, "My husband and I got Tk1.16 lakh after looking after the trees for ten years. We are happy to have received such a big amount at a time. Like us, many others have received the money."
Beneficiary group secretary Mohammad Idris said, "This year, 15 members have received Tk33.21 lakh – Tk2,21,400 each – from short-term forestation on 15 hectares of land which started in 2007. People have financially benefited and forestation is expanding."
Usually, rapid-growing tree saplings – like Akashmoni, Mehagoni, Kadom, Kanchan, Blue Berry, Amloki, Horitoki, and other medicinal and forest trees – are planted. The forests are felled after ten years.
The Chattogram Forest Department said: enrichment gardens would be grown on 3,385 hectares of land, hill gardens on 750 hectares, Shegun gardens on 2,000 hectares, and a buffer zone on 5,000 hectares. Additionally, 2,320 hectares of natural disaster-prone areas will be included in social forestry efforts.
Social forestry has not only helped expand forestry but has also helped stop tree theft and illegal forest land grabbing. The government has also generated revenue of Tk10 crore.
"Illegal grabbing of forests has decreased as a result of social forestry. The government is earning more revenue. As people receive cash from tree sales, the number of interested beneficiaries is increasing gradually," said Md Bakhtiar Nur Siddiqque, divisional forest officer in Chattogram (North).
With the help of various institutes, almost 32 lakh saplings will be produced for sale and free distribution.