The Empowering Smallholder Farmers in Markets programme (ESFIM) supported the advocacy capacities of national farmer organisations (NFOs) for improving smallholder market access. The programme gave NFOs in 11 countries the opportunity to contract local experts to strengthen the evidence-base of their advocacy proposals. By means of a participative process, each NFO analysed the key advocacy issues for which research support was most needed. This resulted in a diversity of themes and advocacy processes. These ranged from research and advocacy on the role of cooperatives in Uruguayan innovation policies to a simulation game on market dynamics in a commodity exchange in the Philippines, and from the review of various seed multiplication programmes in Malawi to the legal and administrative hurdles preventing smallholders from selling to government procurement programmes in Peru and Bolivia. We describe the dynamics surrounding research partnerships in each of the 11 countries and reflect on results of this research-foradvocacy. We also assess the impact of the ESFIM programme on the advocacy capacity of the NFOs. We used a self-evaluation technique, in which board members considered a list of statements covering five capacities that are deemed necessary for effective advocacy. We compared their scores with the observations of external stakeholders who were active in the agricultural sector and knowledgeable about the NFOs’ activities. We conclude that ESFIM has helped to increase coherence in advocacy priorities and has influenced decision making on key policy issues, with encouraging results. In most organisations, ESFIM contributed to the advocacy process, together with many other actors and factors defining advocacy. Based on these experiences, we suggest earmarking funds for NFO-led research support, in order to facilitate the participation of smallholders in the design and monitoring of development policies.