A schistosomiasis control project was undertaken from 1994 to 1998 in Guruve District, Zimbabwe, based on the active involvement of local communities in the growing and application of the molluscicidal plant Phytolacca dodecandra as a supplement to other control measures such as chemotherapy and health education. The berries of P. dodecandra are highly molluscicidal to the intermediate host snails of schistosomiasis and is rapidly degradable in water. It was observed that plant care fluctuated during the study period. Only a few households participated in snail control activities, although 97% of respondents in a baseline survey had stated a willingness to take part. This invoked an investigation to explore the reality from a user perspective. Focus group discussions, semi-structured interviews and observations were used to solicit information. In spite of a cultural inclination for collective work, many reasons for low-level involvement emerged, inter alia the low perceived value of the project, demands for tangible benefits, inaccessible fields and weak leadership. This study shows that community participation is a complex process upon which a multiplicity of social and cultural determinants have an impact. If community participation is to become successful in development programmes it ought to be viewed as a mutual learning process where obstacles are identified and discussed and solutions shared among community members and project staff.