Following the new government in South Africa in 1994 came new forestry policy in 1996, shifting the emphasis from commercial forestry to the full range of tree-associated activities in the country. New skills for community forestry were needed; this paper reported the results of a Danish-funded basic needs assessment (BNA) for forestry training. Although certificate courses in community forestry were non-existent, several organisations already provided participatory courses. Training needs were wide due to the large environmental and social variation in the country. Thus the BNA recommended a flexible modular approach with a focus on 'people skills'. In conclusion the author noted that forestry training and practice had already changed rapidly since the BNA.