Solar energy provides electricity and reduces carbon emissions, but we also see it as a catalyst to create employment, boost income and provide self-reliant solutions for village communities.
The Barefoot College trains middle-aged women from rural villages to become solar engineers. In partnership with local and national organizations, the Barefoot team establishes relationships with village elders, who help identify trainees and implement community support.
Trainees are often illiterate or semi-literate grandmothers who maintain strong roots in their villages and play a major role in community development, bringing sustainable electricity to remote, inaccessible villages. Solar electrification reduces CO2 emissions, slow the negative impacts of deforestation and decrease air pollution from burning firewood and kerosene.
ENLIGHTENED WOMEN ENLIGHTENED COMMUNITIES
HELPING COMMUNITIES TO ADDRESS AN URGENT NEED FOR CLEAN LIGHT
Globally, 1.6 billion people do not have access to electricity. More than 75% of those people are located in rural areas and are often indigenous and tribal groups who are cut off from grid power (due to cost or remote location) and without access to centralized development efforts implemented “top down” by governments and multilaterals. In every region, women suffer under the harshest conditions of poverty. They are unable to realize their full potential within their families and communities or play a substantial role in community decision-making; their ability to be effective environmental stewards is rarely developed.
Most conventional development solutions targeting the rural poor fail to take hold at the village level. These solutions miss the mark in two ways. One, they rely on tools and technologies that are overwrought with complicated installation or upkeep, creating communities dependent on outside help; two, they do not train and employ the rural poor themselves or incorporate them into the development process, thus ignoring the group best positioned to sustain solutions over time: the rural poor themselves.
The College creates decentralized solutions that work at the village level, offering practical learning that crosses language and literacy barriers and marrying this learning to innovative technologies; this demystifies, decentralizes and puts solutions in the rural poor’s control. Since 2006, Barefoot’s flagship solar electrification program has trained 704 illiterate and semi-literate women as solar engineers. They have electrified 40,000 rural households in 1265 villages in 70 countries in the developing world and serve 500,000 people, installing and maintaining equipment and receiving a salary for their services.