In the mountains of Northern Vietnam, with the rapid population growth, the high pressure of cattle and changes in land tenure, the traditional systems of slash-and-burn are no longer sustainable and have been banned. It is extremely urgent to propose to farmers simple, low-input, sustainable agronomic practices and cropping systems, enabling long-term settlement on field after forest clearing. A rapid but sound and clear agronomic diagnosis was conducted in 1998/1999. Major cropping situations and land use types were identified. Direct sowing techniques were adapted to local conditions as they can address the actual causes of the problems, not only the symptoms. First, they were tested in small plots. Most promising systems were then applied in large plots, across the toposequence, in farmers ’conditions. Practical and economical solutions could be proposed to and developed with farmers. These techniques are based on two main principles: 1. Replace mechanical ploughing by biological improvement of soil structure, and 2. Always keep the soil covered with living or dead mulch.