Translation is an essential and extensively-used tool in cross-cultural research and development programmes, yet is frequently sidelined as being of little importance and only a minor component of the initial project design. This often leads to assumptions regarding translation tasks, not only by the translator but also the end-user or the commissioner. Addressing this lack of awareness and the resultant misunderstandings concerning the translation outcome, this article examines the translation processes that take place when translations are commissioned, in this case for an impact study of an NGO community radio development project in Africa’s Sahel region. The article draws on empirical data from the case, including semi-structured interviews with translators working from Fulfuldé, Tamashek, and Zarma-Songhai into French with responses clustered around four themes: identity, agency, source text knowledge and transcription/translation processes. The article expands translation studies by investigating language pairs and informal practices in regions yet to receive attention in the field. It also speaks to development studies by providing practical recommendations for implementing changes to overcome dismissive and neglectful attitudes towards translation and to promote its consideration as a core element of development projects.