In the Hautes-Terres region of Madagascar, population pressure is accelerating the conversion of hilly areas with fragile and relatively infertile soils into cropland. As fertilizers are limited, crop yields remain low and erosion is destroying rice fields. Instead of clearing areas fallowed with Aristida sp. by burning, ibis biomass can be kept for use as mulch and for ",soil smouldering", (écobuage). The effects of this strategy were found to be spectacular, i.e. boosting rainfed rice yields to levels that could bc achieved with high chemical fertilizer inputs-to which farmers have no access for financial reasons. All fuels used (Aristida sp. or barley straw, rice husks, and Acacia mearnsii branches) significantly inereased crop yields relative to the control (without soil smouldering). A residual effect was noted in the second year, especially on volcanic soils with high organic matter levels. Hence, sustainable cropping systems that fulfil farmers' needs while protecting their rice fields can be developed through the use of soil smouldering-performed just once to boost soil fertility-associated with direct seeding techniques.