To compare the efficacy and visual results of phacoemulsification vs manual sutureless small-incision extracapsular cataract surgery (SICS) for the treatment of cataracts in Nepal. Prospective, randomized comparison of 108 consecutive patients with visually significant cataracts. settings: Outreach microsurgical eye clinic. patients: One hundred eight consecutive patients with cataracts were assigned randomly to receive either phacoemulsification or SICS. intervention Cataract surgery with implantation of intraocular lens. main outcome measures: Operative time, surgical complications, uncorrected and best-corrected visual acuity (BCVA), astigmatism, and central corneal thickness (CCT). Both surgical techniques achieved excellent surgical outcomes with low complication rates. On postoperative day 1, the groups had comparable uncorrected visual acuity (UCVA) (P = 0.185) and the SICS group had less corneal edema (P = 0.0039). At six months, 89% of the SICS patients had UCVA of 20/60 or better and 98% had a best-corrected visual acuity (BCVA) of 20/60 or better vs 85% of patients with UCVA of 20/60 or better and 98% of patients with BCVA of 20/60 or better at six months in the phaco group (P = 0.30). Surgical time for SICS was much shorter than that for phacoemulsification (P < .0001). Both phacoemulsification and SICS achieved excellent visual outcomes with low complication rates. SICS is significantly faster, less expensive, and less technology dependent than phacoemulsification. SICS may be the more appropriate surgical procedure for the treatment of advanced cataracts in the developing world.