Community forest management (CFM) is increasingly recognised as a potentially effective way of maintaining forests, especially in the Global South. Despite the growing adoption of this approach, the results have been mixed and there is a need to explore both the ways in which a wider range of benefits can be obtained and how CFM can be implemented more effectively. New forest legislation on community forest management in the Southern Region of Ethiopia in 2012, alongside the development of a highly devolved method of CFM, provided a natural experiment for testing the effectiveness of this method as a way of maintaining forest and also supporting biodiversity conservation and carbon storage. The specific circumstances and details of the methods applied also provided an opportunity to compare this approach against other experiences of CFM to assess factors seen to be influencing success. This study was undertaken in an area of montane forest in south-west Ethiopia, which includes some of the remaining stands of wild Coffea arabica, and so it also sought to create supportive conditions for the in situ conservation of the wild coffee. Analyses of this approach to CFM over the six years show that the loss of forest was reduced to 0.18% per annum in the CFM managed areas compared to 2.6% per annum in the non-CFM forest, while biodiversity, in terms of species diversity, richness and evenness of distribution, was maintained in the natural forest managed under CFM. Carbon storage also increased in the natural forest managed under CFM. While the long-term results will only be seen after several decades, the findings show that the use of a highly devolved form of CFM, responding to felt needs and building up a community of practice were some of the positive influences which helped in achieving multiple impacts towards sustainable forest management and wild coffee conservation.