The LandCare programme of the South African national government aims to address problems associated with the degradation of natural resources by facilitating rural agricultural projects that are sustainable over their entire lifecycles. This paper summarises the development of a new set of project selection criteria for the evaluation of project proposals in order to compile an effective LandCare programme portfolio. The new project selection criteria were developed through a review of current literature, existing criteria applied in previously selected projects and interviews with key stakeholders during project site visits. These site visits were also used to determine criterion weights, which were calculated using the Analytical Hierarchy Process (AHP), a known decision-analysis technique. The established set of criteria was applied to three case studies in South Africa, through which an evaluation procedure is further demonstrated. Thereby a successful project portfolio can be ensured that is dedicated to all three components of sustainable development in rural areas.