Taungya, a scheme in which small-scale farmers are given agricultural plots and subsidies on state forest land in return for planting and maintaining trees on the plots, is argued by some to be exploitative, but in Sri Lanka has been a widely accepted mode of social forestry. Recently some doubts have arisen, which were assessed in this paper. The main problem was that taungya farmers had refused to remain on the same plot for the designated three years because of the drop in yields after the first year. The Forest Department had conceded to their demands but were anxious about the subsequently low rates of tree survival. The authors argued that insufficient thought had been given to the purpose of reforestation, and suggested that permanent settlement with adequate services (e.g. water supplies) would be more appropriate.