In the hilly areas of eastern Gujarat, western Madhya Pradesh and southern Rajasthan, in western India, farmers are very resource-poor and cultivate small and fragmented land holdings. Maize is their main rainy season (kharif) cereal and it is grown as a rainfed crop in low-fertility fields, often on sloping land that is vulnerable to soil erosion. Its productivity is very low, averaging below 1 t ha−1. New farm technologies to increase this productivity have to be low cost to be attractive to farmers who have limited access to purchased inputs and few means to purchase them. From observations of local farming practices, intercropping of maize with legumes was identified as an attractive option because the only additional input needed is seed of the legume crop. Participatory research was conducted on intercropping of maize with improved varieties of horsegram (Macrotyloma uniflorum). Many farmers who tried this intercropping adopted it in subsequent years, while others preferred to grow the new horsegram varieties as a sole crop. Farmers reported that less weeding was required in the intercrop as the horsegram smothered weeds. All farmers used the dry stover from the horsegram as a fodder for their animals. Farmers used the whole seed as dal, which provided additional protein in their diet. Farmers also sold the grain, but it fetched a low price in the poorly developed market for horsegram. Previously intercropping had been tried with local landraces, but the acceptance of intercropping was higher with new varieties such as AK-42 that yielded over 60% more grain. Participatory trials in which only one entry was compared with the local variety did not show a difference between AK-21 and AK-42 as in all cases both were preferred over the local variety. When they were directly compared with each other, farmers' perceptions showed a significant preference for AK-42. Variety IVH-2 was found to be better than AK-42: it matured 15 days earlier, better matching the maturity of the maize, had superior grain quality and yielded about the same. The greater uptake of improved horsegram varieties for sole and intercropping is likely to be limited by the lack of seed supply.