Purpose: The article reports effects on livelihoods of a participatory technology development effort in Benin and Ghana (2001–2006), five years after it ended. Design: The study uses data from all smallholders who participated in seven experimental groups, each facilitated by a PhD researcher. Baseline data and controls were not available. In their dissertations the researchers had each made claims about the impact of their work on the livelihoods of those involved. These claims guided the study in each group, and referred to both impacts based on the superiority of the technology developed, and increased knowledge or capacity that participants claimed to have gained. Two local social scientists interviewed 187 farmers. Findings: The study found considerable evidence of continued beneficial use of technologies developed with farmers. The most important reason for no longer using a technology or institutional innovation was that smallholders had not been able to sustain the conditions for use. Lasting non-technological effects included more mutual understanding among community members, emancipation vis-à-vis researchers and colleagues, and an experimental attitude and research skills. Such effects were recorded for nearly all groups. Practical implications: Smallholders face small windows of opportunity. Technologies and institutional changes that depend on artificially created conditions are likely to be discontinued once those conditions are withdrawn (for example, access to Neem seeds or agreements about land use between landlords and tenants). The findings draw attention to the conditions that enable smallholders to innovate. Originality/value: The study represents a rare attempt to study impact five years later and compares seven independent cases.