Meaningful participatory research in agriculture and natural resource management can help communities, governments, donors and the diverse social actors to engender a process of transformative approaches whereby marginalised groups can become empowered, negotiate space to improve their well-being and livelihoods, and manage the resources they depend on in a sustainable way. For participatory development research to be meaningful it must take gender and social issues into account in order to develop a better understanding and awareness of power relations (at community and household level) that govern access to, use of and control over natural resources and facilitate the recognition of the social and gendered nature of technologies, policies and interventions. This paper gives an overview of concepts and reasons why participatory development research should take into account power relations to involve a variety of social actors, to understand the different impact that policies may have on different social groups and to create the basis for social transformation. For instance, women may prefer to meet at certain times in the day due to their reproductive role or participate in different spaces than men. In participatory research, it is important to be aware of social differentiation and how people engage in the community in order not to exclude marginalised groups like for instance women who may be less visible and not be part of the local elite. Answering questions like who participates and how, and who benefits and how are very useful tools for the researcher and may yield more comprehensive and inclusive results.