Vegetation modifies land-surface properties, mediating the exchange of energy, moisture, trace gases, and aerosols between the land and the atmosphere. These exchanges influence the atmosphere on local, regional, and global scales. Through altering surface properties, vegetation change can impact on weather and climate. We review current understanding of the processes through which tropical land-cover change (LCC) affects rainfall. Tropical deforestation leads to reduced evapotranspiration, increasing surface temperatures by 1-3 K and causing boundary layer circulations, which in turn increase rainfall over some regions and reduce it elsewhere. On larger scales, deforestation leads to reductions in moisture recycling, reducing regional rainfall by up to 40%. Impacts of future tropical LCC on rainfall are uncertain but could be of similar magnitude to those caused by climate change. Climate and sustainable development policies need to account for the impacts of tropical LCC on local and regional rainfall.