This paper discusses the relative importance of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) for rural households in Cameroon, Nigeria and Ghana. It aims to compare and contrast the significance of NTFPs for income generation in rainforest areas, both within and across these countries to draw out regional patterns in a wider ecological, social and political context. In doing so, we bring the added value of highlighting the different roles which NTFPs currently play, or might likely begin to play out, in wider landscapes. The contribution NTFPs make to rural livelihoods depends largely on the availability of forest resources and access to markets, as well as socio-economic variables including wealth, gender and migration status. The findings indicate that remote communities and poorer households rely more on NTFP-based income compared to more accessible communities and wealthier households. NTFPs are relatively unimportant as an income source for households in more accessible rural areas, where farm-related income dominates. These findings support the theory that NTFPs are an important component to rural livelihoods and make significant and timely income contributions to poor households. Furthermore, in times of economic and climatic uncertainty, NTFPs and the forest and agricultural landscapes within which they are found, make a significant contribution to the resilience of rural forest dwellers’ livelihoods.