Small-scale farmers in the Philippines have an average landholding of 2 ha and often no secure land tenure. Many cultivate unsuitable upland areas, leading to erosion and sometimes dramatic landslides. To evaluate sustainability of different farming systems with the involvement of local stakeholders, sustainability indicators were used in this study to compare three different farming systems on Leyte, Philippines. First, local criteria were identified with farmers and other stakeholders (from university, local government and NGOs) in group discussions and interviews, arranged within the sustainable livelihoods framework. Secondly, criteria were ranked by farmers and other stakeholders and analysed statistically to test for relevance regarding comparison of farming systems. Fifteen indicators were chosen for comparison. The results show that farmers practising tree farming were better off with regard to the chosen indicators, but it is difficult to assess why tree farmers are better off, based on these indicators only.