To identify appropriate interventions that support sustainable land use, a farm household modelling approach is applied to analyze micro-economic supply reactions to various policy measures. The modelling framework links agro-technical and economic data, and takes both production and consumption decisions into account, allowing land use and production technology adjustments in accordance with farm household objectives. Different types of farm households are distinguished on the basis of their resource endowments, savings coefficients and time discount rate. Actual and alternative (sustainable) cropping and livestock activities for different weather regimes are defined for southern Mali. The effects on sustainable land use and expected farm household welfare of adopting alternative technologies and modifying prices, transaction costs, access to credit and land taxes are demonstrated. Even with full information on sustainable technologies, strong policy interventions are required to halt soil degradation. Structural policies proved to be more effective than price policies to reduce soil degradation while maintaining positive income effects. When prices are determined endogenously, structural policy loses some effectiveness as an incentive for sustainable land use due to the effect of additional supply on local cereal and meat prices. © 1998 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.