Summary Due to the failure of the post?independent state to address the land inequities of the colonial era, conflicts over land resources are prevalent in Zimbabwe. This is particularly the case in and around state forest reserves. Recognising these conflicts, the Zimbabwe Forestry Commission has been exploring possibilities of co?management arrangements for forest reserves. This article examines one such pilot programme, exploring its historical origins in both national and local debates about forest policy The way historical experiences of forest management impinge on current thinking are highlighted, including how these feed into the contrasting perceptions of the ecological, economic and social values of forest resources of officials and local people. Major social differences among communities surrounding forest areas mean that local perceptions are highly varied. Given this context, the prospects for co?management arrangements where forest resources are shared are discussed.