This paper was one of the first to highlight that the shift in emphasis from trees to people entailed in social forestry demanded new expertise among forestry workers. Taking the State Forestry Department of Karnataka, India, as a case study, the author assessed current training techniques and curricula and suggested improvements. He recommended that the first step should be to acknowledge that social understanding and communication skills are as important to extension work as technical ability. Human contexts should be presented as a cross-curricular theme rather than an individual module, to counter the notion of social forestry as a mere sideline. The best way to teach adaptive and co-operative approaches would be to use them in the classroom, replacing lectures with more participatory activities.