Here is an interesting interview about teaching women villagers solar engineering techniques to light their villages:
RocketBoom Feb 22, 2007
This is the first solar-electricity generated lighted village in Afghanistan.
Here is an article about the Barefoot College:
The Barefoot Approach Beyond India
First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you and then you win.
– Mahatma Gandhi
The Barefoot College of Tilonia, India demonstrates that illiteracy is not a barrier to poor
communities developing themselves and that the most sophisticated of technologies can
be disseminated by poor rural men and women who can barely read and write. The
Barefoot College strongly believes that it is a myth that the development of poor rural
communities requires people with formal degrees and qualifications. The Barefoot
College has extended its informal training programs to empower a growing number of
female solar power engineers, and the Barefoot approach to development has spread
across India and around the world.
The Barefoot College is a radical departure from the traditional concept of a “college.”
The lifestyle and workstyle is very Gandhian. Rather than reading, writing, and formal
degrees, the Barefoot College promotes the kind of education one absorbs from family,
community, and practical experience. The College confers no degrees and all members,
regardless of class, education, or caste, are considered equal. For the drop-out children
who cannot afford to go to school in the day because they have to look after their
animals in the fields, classes take place at night in the villages. The education is entirely
practical — many of the children who pass through Night School become health
workers, engineers, accountants, and teachers AND serve their own communities.
Unlike the paper-qualified urban experts sent to help them, Barefoot-educated
professionals focus on local decision-making and grassroots development. As one
Barefoot College staff member explains, “It is Gandhian — like Mahatma Gandhi we do
believe power resides in the poor. They have dignity but do not have opportunities. We
are harnessing human potential.” By giving the rural poor access to practical knowledge,
the Barefoot College demystifies technology and puts it in the hands of villagers
To date, Barefoot professionals have helped bring solar electricity to over 200 remote
villages in seven states across India, fulfilling such basic needs as lighting and heating.
In this capacity alone, the Barefoot College has improved the quality of life of more than
The philosophies of the College have done more than bring practical technological
advancements; they also empower villagers, especially women. As one female Barefoot
engineer explained, her husband and in-laws were first unhappy with her pursuit of
education and grassroots activism, but they soon came to respect her work: “My
husband will never say it, but I know he’s very proud of me. Now he asks me to maintain
his accounts for him!” Another female scholar explains, “I now look back at my childhood
when I always dreamed of doing something big for my society. My mother used to laugh
at me. Today my family, my neighbors, and even the village elders respect me and value
my contribution. It feels wonderful.”
The Barefoot approach to the solar-electrification of rural communities has been adopted
by the Asian Development Bank in Afghanistan and in 2007 will be adopted in 25
villages in Bhutan. Similar initiatives are developing in Sierra Leone, The
Gambia, Mali, Bolivia, Cameroon, Tanzania, Senegal, Mauritania, Malawi, Kenya and
Ethiopia. Both the UNDP and Skoll Foundation have provided funds for training 34
Barefoot solar and water engineers from Ethiopia. In six months during 2006, 19
inaccessible villages in Ethiopia were solar electrified by Barefoot solar engineers
trained by the Barefoot College in Tilonia.
Skoll Foundation has provided financial support to replicate the Barefoot approach in
solar electrification and roof top rainwater harvesting for drinking water and sanitation in
Afghhanistan, Ethiopia,Sierra Leone, Senegal, Cameroon and Bolivia. The Barefoot
College’s $1 million Alcan Prize for Sustainability will be used to replicate the Barefoot
model in even more villages in these countries.
Barefoot College founder Bunker Roy said: “It is the only College in India built by the
poor for the poor and for the last 34 years managed and controlled and owned by the
poor following the life-style and work-style of Gandhi. It is based on very simple living,
eating, living, and working on the floor where people come for the challenge rather than
the money. No one in the college can earn more than $100 a month.”
“It’s the only college where paper degrees, diplomas and doctorates are a
disqualification because the worth of the person is judged by his or her honesty,
integrity, compassion, practical skills, creativity and their ability to work with people
The Barefoot College, formally known as the Social Work Research Centre, was
established in 1972 in Tilonia, a small village in the semi-arid regions of Rajasthan,
India. The College’s founder, Bunker Roy, has lived and worked in this village since the
College was established 35 years ago.
The College was designed by a semi-literate Barefoot architect and was built by a team
of Barefoot architects, Barefoot solar engineers, and Barefoot water engineers. The
College collects rainwater from the roofs of the campus and stores 400,000 liters of
water in an underground tank built under a community stage. The open-air theater can
seat an audience of 5,000 for performances. The College is fully solar electrified and
powers its computers, photocopying machines, media center, pathology lab, and 700
lights and fans of its administrative offices, classrooms and living spaces with sunlight.
A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission
can alter the course of history.
– Mahatma Gandhi