Many studies detail constraints deemed responsible for the limited adoption of new technologies among smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa. By contrast, here we study the conditions that led to the remarkably fast spread of improved chickpea varieties in Ethiopia. Within just seven years, the adoption rate rose from 30 to 80% of the farmers. A combination of factors explains the rapid uptake. Their attraction lay in superior returns and disease resistance. Chickpea was already an important crop for rural households in the studied districts, for both cash income and consumption. Good market access and an easy accessibility of extension services advanced the adoption process. Thus, an attractive technology suitable for rural households in a conducive environment enabled adoption. Our findings prompt us to stress the importance of tailoring agricultural innovations to the realities and demands of rural households, and the need to design and deploy interventions on the basis of ex-ante knowledge on factors potentially determining their success or failure.