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Gains from Social Forestry: Lessons from West Bengal

Research reports

In the early 1980s the government of West Bengal, India, introduced grants to encourage woodlots. After initial indifference, the scheme gathered momentum in 1985 when landholders became aware of the potentially vast profits of growing eucalyptus. By the time this paper was written, woodlots were expanding despite the removal of subsidies, as markets for eucalyptus poles, timber and firewood developed rapidly. The author argued that the main reasons for the popularity and success of eucalyptus plantations were the low attendant opportunity costs of land and labour in areas where previously unused non-arable land was available for woodlots. He predicted that they would be less successful where non-arable land was used for other, even unremunerative, purposes (which the subsequent boom-and-bust in eucalyptus planting in India has shown to be true).

Tushaar Shah