Barefoot Solar Engineers

Solar power — By Amy on October 15, 2008 at 10:15 am
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Solar panels being delivered on foot for installation.

Late last year, 30 women ventured out from their rural village homes in Bhutan for the first time. The purpose for their journey was admirable; to bring solar power back to their villages, most of which are a 5 hour walk to the nearest road.

They traveled to India’s Barefoot College where they learned to install, maintain and repair solar power systems for the benefit of their family and their entire community.

Although they had a very limited educational background, they became Bhutan’s first Barefoot Solar Engineers. These women, between the ages of 20-40, were able to accomplish their goal and provide solar power to close to 500 families. They will be fully responsible for maintaining and repairing the solar installations.

At the Barefoot College in Rajasthan, India, success isn’t measured by degrees, but by the positive changes made to lives of the poor and needy across the world. The Barefoot College itself consists of over 80,000 square feet and is completely electrified by clean solar energy.

 Barefoot Solar Engineers

The Barefoot Solar Engineers from Bhutan

Funded by the Asian Development Bank, the Barefoot College provides the tools and training that are directly relevant to the needy.

To date, they have successfully brought solar electricity to remote villages in 14 countries, from Bolivia to Sierra-Leone. In India alone, they have brought solar powered electricity to more than 100,000 people in 16 states by training 300 solar engineers.

The Barefoot College also actively educates in other areas, such as rainwater harvesting. They sponsor various educational and support groups for women as well.

How can solar power change the lives of people in need? They now have light and electricity from a clean source. They no longer need to spend their limited income on candles or kerosene. Using solar cookers can reduce their fuel use and provide a clean safe way to cook meals.

 Barefoot Solar Engineers

First Solar Powered City in Afghanistan

The carbon neutralization effects of solar powering these small villages are larger than you may think. The total reduction of carbon emissions due to the work of the dedicated and trained barefoot solar engineers is 1.86 million tons annually.

These calculations are based of the use of diesel for transportation of fuels, use in generators and the use of kerosene for lighting.

It seems to me that we here in America make things so difficult. I have been investigating home solar power lately and doing the math. What’s it going to cost, how much of a tax credit can we get, or would it be better to just lease a system for our home? The bottom line always seems to be “how will this benefit me” and not how will it benefit my community, the economy or the environment. I think that is true for many Americans…but not for the barefoot solar engineers.

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Solar Panels in Ladakh

If they can do it, leaving everything behind for 6 months, why is it such a big production for us to make a relatively simple switch? I know I may be preaching to the choir here, but why don’t we see the enormous value of using solar power?

Perhaps it is has just been too easy to stick with the status quo.

The following videos will take you through the lives of a few of these women who have become solar engineers in their rural home villages. I hope their stories will inspire you.

Kamla’s Story: She is a wife and mom, a teacher and a barefoot solar engineer in India. Her traditional education stopped at grade 5 and she is largely unfamiliar with mathematics and physics. She maintains and repairs solar installations in more than 30 villages and is now an instructor at the Barefoot College.

Barefoot Solar Engineers – The Gambia: Two illiterate women venture from their village to learn via sign language, how to be solar engineers. See the results in the following video:

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  1. Ifeanyi Onyekwelu says:

    This is an interesting information when I saw the Barefoot Solar representative talk in CNN some time last week.

    Nigerian rural women need this solar electricity more because we are having serious electricity problem and none exist in the rural areas at all amidst poverty. How can your training programme extend to Anambra State, Nigeria? Thanks for helping the indigent solve the problem of electricity and putting smiles on the faces of almost hopeless people.

    234 8063380559

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