Alternative solutions to the loss of production potential and to the increasing rural poverty engendered by many slash-and-burn systems require major shifts in the evolution toward greater sustainability. Slash-and-burn practices are the starting point for several evolutionary pathways in agricultural development. The changes cannot be single-factor (such as increasing fertilizer inputs or use of better crop varieties). The transformation of highly complex systems requires substitution of enterprises that are more productive in geographical areas that may be marginal for food and feedgrains. These new systems often require markets for the wide variety of high-value crop and animal products that are most appropriate in highly diverse systems adapted to a range of production environments. The best existing examples of such systems indicate that potential gains in productivity are enormous. The structuring of several systems to enhance biological interaction can increase production efficiencies. Stimuli for change will involve social, political, and economic dimensions. It is essential for effective change in most systems that the planning horizon for farmer investment of both labor and capital be extended to at least 10 years. Several specific examples are presented. © 1996 Published by Elsevier Science B.V.