The main purpose of the work reported is the field-evaluation of large-scale aerial photographs (1:1,250 and 1:2,500 scale) as non-literate aids for supporting participatory work by Forest User Groups (FUGs) and for participatory mapping of community forests in Nepal. Aerial photographs used in conjunction with a Geographical Information System (GIS) were also tested as a possible alternative to current chain-and-compass practices for surveying community forests. Survey maps are required for the preparation of community forest Operational Plans, which constitute legal agreements between Forest User Groups and His Majesty’s Government of Nepal. Fieldwork was conducted with Department of Forest staff supported by the Nepal-UK Community Forest Project in Parbat District in the Dhauligiri Region of the Middle Hills in Nepal. The single most important finding was that aerial photographs made information, issues surrounding forest management, and participatory processes more accessible to non-literate people, thereby empowering them to take greater control over decision-making. Overall, the use of aerial photographs and participatory ‘photo-mapping’ (the practice of mapping on to a transparency placed over an aerial photograph) were found to be beneficial in several ways.