The East Usambara Mountains, recognized as one of the 25 most important biodiversity hot spots in the world, have a high degree of species diversity and endemism that is threatened by increasing human pressure on resources. Traditional slash and burn cultivation in the area is no longer sustainable. However, it is possible to maintain land productivity, decrease land degradation, and improve rural people's livelihood by ameliorating cultivation methods. Improved agroforestry seems to be a very convincing and suitable method for buffer zones of conservation areas. Farmers could receive a reasonable net income from their farm with little investment in terms of time, capital, and labor. By increasing the diversity and production of already existing cultivations, the pressure on natural forests can be diminished. The present study shows a significant gap between traditional cultivation methods and improved agroforestry systems in socio-economic terms. Improved agroforestry systems provide approximately double income per capita in comparison to traditional methods. More intensified cash crop cultivation in the highlands of the East Usambara also results in double income compared to that in the lowlands. However, people are sensitive to risks of changing farming practices. Encouraging farmers to apply better land management and practice sustainable cultivation of cash crops in combination with multipurpose trees would be relevant in improving their economic situation in the relatively short term. The markets of most cash crops are already available. Improved agroforestry methods could ameliorate the living conditions of the local population and protect the natural reserves from human disturbance.