30 October 2013

Grandmother power

Barefoot solar engineering workshop

Imagine this. You want to provide solar-powered electricity supplies to small rural villages in Madagascar so that people don't need to rely on burning expensive fossil fuels like diesel and kerosene. You decide to train local people who will become the solar engineers, setting up and maintaining the solar systems. Who would you choose to train?

The answer is, grandmothers. Following the success of a similar scheme in India, the World Wildlife Fund has sponsored seven older women from Madagascar to do six months' training at the Barefoot College in Tilonia, Rajasthan. On their return they will responsible for setting up solar powered electricity supplies to nearly 400 homes in two villages.

Barefoot solar engineers in Africa
Grandmothers (mainly middle aged women) are specifically chosen because they are keen to learn, patient, benefit from the opportunity to be employed and are unlikely to move away from the village after they are trained. You can read more about the Madagascan project on the WWF site.

The Barefoot College has been training grandmothers as solar engineers for several years. According to the college website, since 2008 the grandmothers they have trained have provided electricity to more than 40,000 households, bringing light to more than 450,000 individuals in 1,015 villages. That's in addition to helping communities provide electricity to public buildings such as schools and hospitals, along with solar powered water heating and desalination. 

Photo credit:Barefoot Photographers of Tilonia / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

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