Despite several approaches that aimed at mobilising East African farmers to embrace soil and water conservation (SWC) activities, farmers hardly responded since they were seldom involved in the planning of SWC activities. Two tools that employ farmers' participation were developed and applied at Gikuuri catchment in Kenya. The first tool involved farmers to map soil erosion using their own indicators and determine the soil erosion status at catchment scale. This formed the basis upon which they undertook to plan for SWC measures at catchment scale. Farmers also predicted crop yield losses based on the soil erosion status. Farmers widely approved the soil erosion status map since their own indicators and perceptions were used. The second tool provided cash flow trends for a variety of SWC activities and farmer situations. Farmers can use land with a high, moderate or low erosion status and often have rather different socio-economic settings. The net benefits over 5 yr for bench terraces, fanya juu terraces and grass strips were illustrated to assist farmers in making informed decisions on SWC adoption. The two tools increased awareness on the need for collective actions among farmers and showed fields that cause run-on on downslope fields. The improved awareness of erosion problems and the related financial consequences increased farmers' willingness to share the investment costs for cut-off drains.