As forest products from Cameroon and DR Congo are commercialised, a value chain is created from harvesters, processors, and retailers to consumers worldwide. In contrast to dominant narratives focusing on regulations and customs, these chains are actually governed by dynamic, multiple arrangements regulating access to resources and markets. New institutions have been created, led by project-related civil society organisations and enterprises. These increasingly take on roles traditionally the reserve of governments. In some chains, the state performs its duties, in others not. Customary authorities, projects, non-government organisations and market institutions fill some voids. Often actors with little voice in formal governance create their own messy, bricolaged arrangements, and governance based on 'exclusiveness' produces some of the most sustainable chains and livelihoods in the long term. The different governance arrangements and combinations affect the livelihoods of those involved in chains, forests and their sustainability in different ways, both positively and negatively.