Social forestry as a development strategy has evolved since the 1970s, especially in the tropics, to address forest degradation and promote local community development amidst the burgeoning population in these areas. As a practice, however, social forestry has been in place since ancient times in many parts of the world, including Japanese forest communities. Forest-people relationships in Japan drastically changed through massive afforestation programs after the energy source change and with the industrialization of the forest sector in 1950s. The majority of the planted forests are underutilized today and forest communities are marginalized due to the decline of forestry operations, depopulation, and changes in people's values. Some communities address this concern by inviting potential urban migrants who may be interested in settling in rural areas. Using the case of the Nishiawakura Village in Okayama Prefecture, this paper explores the recent challenges confronting social forestry in Japan. It is found that underutilization of forest resources can be a cause of serious environmental degradation and marginalization of forest communities, and that Nishiawakura's journey to renew forest management in partnership with migrants is a process of revisiting and creating the forest-people relationship. This study advances two related arguments, namely (1) the interaction of the local people and the migrants brings new perspectives to forest management, and (2) in a community facing depopulation and underutilization of forest resources, social forestry can be an effective approach to rediscover traditional forest management in a new form and revitalize forests and local communities.
- Depopulated forest community
- Forest management
- Forest-people relationship
- Underutilization of forest resources
ASJC Scopus subject areas