Participatory epidemiology programmes aim to collect data by engaging local communities in knowledge sharing around livestock health. Critics of participatory approaches often cite the extractive nature of data collection and unequal power relations between researcher and researched as at odds with the original vision of participatory programming. This paper starts from the position that rural livestock owners are situated within multiple overlapping webs of relationships through which they exchange disease information and access resources. Participatory programmes are suggested as weaving new threads into these wider networks in a process that may be accepted or rejected by indigenous actors. Qualitative interviews were used to gather empirical data on the exchange of information around livestock health knowledge through indigenous relationships and a Participatory Disease Surveillance (PDS) programme within a Gabra pastoralist community in Northern Kenya. Subsequent analysis identified four pathway typologies; this paper provides a qualitative comparative analysis of each to explore the nature of participation within the study population. The paper concludes that social science approaches have a key role to play in understanding how relationships within and between indigenous and development actors can influence participation in development projects.