Smallholder farmers resident in marginalized communities in the uplands of Lao People's Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) have been subject to agricultural reforms and policies requiring adaptation of their rural livelihood systems and adoption of new agricultural technologies. Structured interviews with farmers explored their perspectives and experiences when developing economically viable, locally adapted and diversified livelihood and farming system strategies. Agricultural productivity was dependent on cultivatable land and forest biodiversity, while agricultural strategies embedded knowledge, information and ideas to enable farmers to adapt to changing conditions. Political, social, economic and environmental factors have influenced smallholder farmers in their preference and uptake of new technologies and activities. Opportunities to trial new technologies and further support, advice and information from extension officers and projects, combined with market opportunities and access to credit, will enable some farmers to find sustainable production alternatives. Copyright Â© 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERPEnvironment.