Community forestry is considered a tool for decentralisation and devolution and as efficient strategy to achieve the multiple goals of sustainable resource management and poverty alleviation. However, evidence worldwide has shown mixed results. A financial, economic and environmental cost-benefit analysis of two community forests in Cameroon revealed that community forests are economically and environmentally profitable, and benefit communities more, compared to a baseline situation. Sharp differences between the economic and financial returns highlight the importance of conditional factors. These include the communities' technical and managerial skills, access to finance, legal resources and market information, and the communities' capacity for vertical integration. The cases highlight the limitations of the current regulatory and policy framework as a determining influence on the exploitation of community forests and conclude there is a pressing need for institutional and organizational reforms within the governmental and support apparatus to increase the profitability and equity of community forestry.