This paper describes the design of fault diagnosis and active fault tolerant control schemes that can be developed for nonlinear systems. The methodology is based on a fault detection and diagnosis procedure relying on adaptive filters designed via the nonlinear geometric approach, which allows obtaining the disturbance de-coupling property. The controller reconfiguration exploits directly the on-line estimate of the fault signal. The classical model of an inverted pendulum on a cart is considered as an application example, in order to highlight the complete design procedure, including the mathematical aspects of the nonlinear disturbance de-coupling method based on the nonlinear differential geometry, as well as the feasibility and efficiency of the proposed approach. Extensive simulations of the benchmark process and Monte Carlo analysis are practical tools for assessing experimentally the robustness and stability properties of the developed fault tolerant control scheme, in the presence of modelling and measurement errors. The fault tolerant control method is also compared with a different approach relying on sliding mode control, in order to evaluate benefits and drawbacks of both techniques. This comparison highlights that the proposed design methodology can constitute a reliable and robust approach for application to real nonlinear processes.