Based on long-term ethnographic research, this paper analyses the relations between local politics and farmers’ participation in rural development in Tigray (Ethiopia). It takes an actor-oriented approach and focuses on local government officials and farmer representatives, who mediate between the government agencies that undertake rural development programmes and the farmers whom they address. To reach the target numbers of programme beneficiaries, these local development brokers “mobilize” farmers to participate. They capitalize upon the historical legitimacy of the 1975-1991 revolution against the military Derg dictatorship in which the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), now heading the national government, and Tigray’s rural population successfully joined forces. They revitalize farmers’ collective memory of this alliance and reinvent the revolutionary grassroots institutions through which it was realized. The effects of mobilization on participation in development are the largest among farmers who are members of the TPLF. A TPLF-development nexus arises, structuring local political career opportunities along the lines of development. The case study attempts to contribute to an empirical understanding of the entanglement of local politics and local development brokerage in rural African societies.