This paper is concerned with the potential impacts of community forestry on rural poverty. Whilst development of community forests is still at an early stage in Cameroon, the limited information available does indicate a clear trend. The communities with the first community forests tended to distribute the benefits on an individual basis, leading to rapid consumptive behaviour. More recent experiences, however, show communities looking for more complex organisational and decision-making arrangements which may benefit the community as a whole and may have a significant multiplier effect. Drawing on four case studies, the paper concludes that community forestry does have the potential to contribute positively to the improvement of rural livelihoods and poverty alleviation. But for this to occur, a number of key conditions have to be met. These include enforced legal protection from outside ëincursionsí, community ownership of the organisation and planning process, available technical and management skills, and access to finance.