Target the right actors in the value chain
At first, the RBF project targeted agriculture and energy cooperatives. Cooperatives are well established in Ethiopia and have good rural outreach and a broad member base. They were therefore thought ideal as an intermediary to bring urban produced cookstoves to rural families in the absence of other distribution and retail structures for improved cookstoves in the countryside. Contrary to the project’s original assumption, however, their capacity to participate in the project was very low, requiring a lot of technical support. Moreover, the cooperatives had limited to no financial ability to pre-finance the RBF activities, making them highly dependent on microfinance institutions. More often than not, the microfinance institutions could not satisfy the financial needs due to limited lending capacities, the complexity of their lending procedures, and other priority lending areas. As a result, all contracted cooperatives performed significantly lower than expected and only about 1,000 improved cookstoves were sold.