Abstract : Participatory approaches have become de rigueur in research for development. A goal of many participatory projects is to generally empower beneficiaries, beyond the scope of the immediate project. The technical and organizational learning, the social contacts, and the prestige that result from participation continue to serve beneficiaries after the end of a project. These benefits would accrue more in projects with higher levels of participation. However, in the event of a premature end or an ostensible failure, how are beneficiaries of highly participatory projects affected? Based on experiences with participatory research-development projects in four villages in Benin, this paper discusses the possibility of a “participatory depression”, that is to say an intense disillusionment or sense of abandonment experienced by local participants of projects in which institutional actors fail to fulfill their responsibilities. The forging of close relationships between researchers and beneficiaries means that any incompletion of objectives is charged with personal overtones. A failed participatory project can thus do much to harm the trust of beneficiaries. The article shows that this disillusionment is stronger if participating groups exclude other community members during the project. The authors conclude by recommending a participatory ethic for researchers, based on responsible project completion and sincere commitment to the participatory process.