In any conservation programme, a variety of actors participate and interact in its different phases. They commonly have different perspectives and priorities regarding conservation, and diversity in the ensuing perspectives constitutes a barrier to effective conservation. In this paper, we analyse the different perspectives around the Programa de Conservación de Maíz Criollo (Programme for the Conservation of Native Maize in Mexico; PROMAC) in order to understand the possible causes that resulted in the programme not fulfilling its objectives. We used Q methodology and semi-structured interviews with farmers from a natural protected area to analyse the perspectives of the key actors who conceptualized, designed and implemented the programme and of the target population. Our research identified two different perspectives: (1) native maize can only be conserved with the support of community processes; and (2) the government, and not farmers, is responsible for the conservation of native maize. For farmers, native maize is key to their subsistence livelihoods, and they participated in the programme because of government monetary incentives. These differences contributed to dissimilar interpretations throughout the programme’s implementation phase, which, in turn, likely contributed to PROMAC failing to meet its objectives.