Research in Vietnam's uplands shows that poverty alleviation and environmental protection can be most readily achieved by communities building, protecting, and using their own assets more effectively. This approach starts by looking at what poor people already have, not what they lack. By contrast, government development policies often seek to modernise the rural sector through the introduction of new agricultural technology and improved marketing without taking existing local capacities into account. Such policies often fail to achieve their objectives. Traditional composite swidden agriculture (CSA), by contrast, may be more environmentally sustainable and better able to enhance household food security than many “modern” agricultural systems. Therefore, improvement of existing systems of composite swiddening in combination with adoption of new ventures, such as cattle raising, may achieve greater success than attempts to replace swidden agriculture with completely new “modern” farming systems.