Over the last 30 years, policymakers and conservation non-government organisations have focused on the sustainable production and commercialisation of non-timber forest products (NFTPs). Is this a way forward in tropical forested areas for successful conservation and rural development? Development strategies try to include local people in the management and governance of natural resources such as forests, so that they receive more of the benefits. This contrasts with preservationist environmental policies, which excluded people from forests. Strategies that support the collection and commercialisation of NTFPs by local people have the potential to provide an increased source of income for people living in or near forests. NTFPs also have important subsistence uses, for example providing a 'free' source of food, medicines, fuel and construction materials. And, if properly managed, NTFPs can be an incentive for forest communities to protect existing forests and restore degraded areas, to ensure their source of income is sustainable. However, forests are being cleared as the global demand for timber rises and as ranching and large-scale agricultural activities expand. Many species fundamental to forest livelihoods are vulnerable and forest resources are declining.