Abstract Literature often investigates participation before or during project implementation, but few investigations target the last phases of a participatory project or its aftermath. This investigation re-visits a case study that has been previously published and investigates the consequences of a participatory project using ethnographic methods. The investigation draws attention to the significance of avoiding static perspectives of empowerment, thus the paper focuses on the dynamics of power play. The paper resolves to an understanding that empowerment is a constant negotiation, thus anticipated change will be gradual (if supported) or successes may degenerate. Sustaining empowerment is important as existing power structures will utilize their networks and the socio-political context in order to regain hegemony and disempower rivals. The global context of empowerment and participation will have an impact on the agency permitted to the vulnerable groups.