In spite of a long settlement history of the tropical Andes, rural farming communities have always been exposed to conditions of ecological and economic vulnerability, risks, and even disasters. This has resulted, at certain times and in some regions, to a destabilization of livelihoods and to a manifestation of various forms of marginalization, to poverty or outmigration. However, Andean communities , over a long time, have given admirable testimonies of resilience and adaptations in the face of adverse conditions or new challenges. This paper examines the potentials and different facets of resilience and adaptation strategies of the rural campesinado in the tropical Andes. It emphasizes the proven traditional concepts of verticality, complementarity, reciprocity, and mutual community support, which to date support the feasibility and sustainability of Andean farming and community survival. In spite of this recognition, it is argued that Andean rural livelihoods always had to adapt to new developments, to threats and challenges, as well as to opportunities and alternative potentials. In the face of an almost ubiquitous penetration of modernization, new technologies, and economic and cultural globalization, the fundamental question arises, whether this can be considered as a path to progress and development, or as a threat to the survival of small-scale farming and rural community living. The paper concludes by formulating, albeit in a tentative form, some general suggestions for ‘development approaches and for research priorities in the rural Andes.