The issue of rural poverty continues to shape critical academic and policy discourses in the global South. In such discourses, some scholars and policy-makers highlight non-agrarian pathways leading to prosperity, while others continue to emphasize the significance of land and farming for poverty reduction. However, such analyses tend not only to obscure strong linkages between agriculture, migration and rural labour, but also stay silent on how rural people interpret changes or continuities in their livelihoods. In this paper, I focus on the case of rural Nepal to unfold how some rural people, but not others, improve their livelihoods through international labour migration, farming and rural labour. This paper reveals that many poor people have experienced improved livelihoods pursuing a diverse portfolio of agricultural and non-agricultural activities including labour migration. However, the dispossession of poor people from land and their adverse incorporation into the local and international labour markets continue to perpetuate chronic poverty.