The likelihood of smallholder farmers not participating in agroforestry agri-environmental schemes and payments for ecosystem services (PES) may be due to limited farmland endowment and formal credit constraints. These deficits may lead to an ‘exclusive club’ of successful farmers, which are not necessarily poor, enjoying the benefits of agri-environmental schemes and PES although agrienvironmental schemes and PES have been devised as a means of fostering rural sustainable development and improving the livelihood of poor smallholder farmers. Smallholder farmers in parts of rural Kenya continue to enroll in ‘The International Small Group Tree Planting Programme’ (TIST), an agri-environmental scheme, promoting agroforestry, carbon sequestration and conservation agriculture (CA). The question remains if these farmers are really poor? This study examines factors that determine the participation of smallholder farmers in TIST in parts of rural Kenya. We use survey data compiled in 2013 on 210 randomly selected smallholder farmers from Embu, Meru and Nanyuki communities; the sample consists of TIST and non-TIST members. A random utility model and logit regression were used to test a set of non-monetary and monetary factors that influence participation in the TIST. The utility function is conceptualized to give non-monetary factors, particularly the common medium of communication in rural areas – formal and informal – a central role. Furthermore, we investigate other factors (incl. credit accessibility and interest rate) that reveal the nature of farmers participating in TIST. The findings suggest that spread of information via formal and informal networks is a major driver of participation in the TIST program. Furthermore, variables such credit constrains, age and labour supply positively correlate with TIST participation, while for education the opposite is true. It is important to mention that these correlations, although somewhat consistent, were all found to be weak. The results indicate that participation in the TIST program is not influenced by farm size; therefore we argue that the TIST scheme is NOT an ‘exclusive club’ comprising wealthy and successful farmers. Older farmers’ being more likely to join the TIST is an argument for their long- rather than widely assumed short-term planning horizon and a new contribution to the literature. Given the importance of poverty alleviation and climate smart agriculture in developing countries, sustainable policy should strengthening the social and human capital as well as informal networks in rural areas. Extension services should effectively communicate benefits to less educated and credit constrained farmers.