Barefoot College – teaching solar engineering to village women

Here is an interesting interview about teaching women villagers solar engineering techniques to light their villages:

RocketBoom Feb 22, 2007

lighted Afghanistan Village

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
80,000 people.
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
without discrimination.”
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
February 2007



Filed under politics, Sustaining Technologies, Uncategorized

21 responses to “Barefoot College – teaching solar engineering to village women

  1. The Ordinary Heroes of Afghanistan tells the incredible story of the barefoot solar engineers trained by the Barefoot College who have solar electrified their own communitis in Afghanistan.

    You can purchase this DVD online and your purchase helps to support the work of the Barefoot College >

  2. We’re interested to parner with the BAREFOOT ENGINEERS Programme..We’re Empowering Grassroots women/Jobless Youths/Disabled in particular with solar energy education[Practical]

    We shall be very glad recieving your profile and postive go-ahead.
    Engr.Joe Okeke
    Co-ordinator African Region
    Self-Reliance Intl”
    Awka–Nigeria,West Africa

  3. Your Programme is admired by our Group and we’re ready to partner with you.

  4. This is not barefoot college! Here is contact information for the college from their website :

    The Director
    The Barefoot College, Village Tilonia, via Madanganj, District Ajmer
    Rajasthan 305816, INDIA
    ph+91 (0)1463- 288204, FAX +91 (0)1463-288206

    Or e-mail your inquiry to:

  5. We are calling all solar energy technicians worldwide to assist us train West african Grassroot women/disabled persons/jobless youth master solar home system and make them self reliant.
    This is the only way to uproot poverty,hunger and security.
    Joe Okeke.

  6. Joe Okeke,

    It is an honor to have you ask for solar energy technicians on To the Moon – may God bless your work! The Kingdom of God will have no poverty, hunger, or crime in it. Jesus taught us to pray “Your kingdom Come, on earth as it is in heaven.” I believe the only way to uproot poverty is using all our understanding and engineering know how of places like the Barefoot College, along with the Help of God, which is found in Jesus Christ, in this ever shrinking world.

    warm regards,


    Engr.Joe Okeke is calling the solar energy experts worldover to assist in his Grassroot Light for All Programme for Frican Rural dwellers as a mean of Ending poverty,hunger and unemployment crises in africa.

  8. Dear Mr.Mark,
    Africa must be liberated and you’re called to assist now.
    Joe Okeke

  9. We’re waiting for all people of God to sponsor our solar energy grassroots programme.
    Joe Okeke

  10. To all People of God,
    Assist African Grassroots Women/Disabled to master solar Education.
    Help and sponsor this vital programme,please.
    Joe Okeke

  11. We’re glad that Freewheelchair Intl’ is partnershiping with us to liberate the Disabled through Solar Energy Education.

  12. Joe needs kind sponsors for his solar[box]type cooker designs and assembling traing programmes for all grass women in Nigeria,Niger Delta Women in particular.
    Our target is to train 400,000 Helpless women this year.And it will cost us USD 200
    to train one woman plus box cooker materials and liberate them from cooking bondage.
    Joe Okeke.

  13. Joe is calling all African polcy makers includind:
    Dr.Nelson Mandella
    Dr.Oby Ezekwesili of World Bank African Region
    Dr.Kofin Annan and all African Leaders to come to our Aid.

    Joe Okeke.

  14. Hi

    We are implementing a solar project in Zimbabwe funded by GEF SGP in Ward 23 Chipinge. We want to set up a complete Solar Community. We have built a solar charge centre. For sustainability we want the community to set up a revolving solar materials. We urgenytly require trhe forllowing items
    Lamp holders, screw type 7
    DC energy saver bulbs 7
    Switch 4 gang 2 way 1
    Switch 1 gang 2 way 2
    Switch 1 gang 1 way 4
    DSO 13 Amp 6
    19 mm conduit PVC 50
    Nipples 50
    Round Box 45
    Gaddles 80
    2.5 mm sq red 300
    2.5 mm sq black 200
    15 Amp MCB 3
    5 Amp MCB 2
    4 way DB 25
    Cable from Battery Station/m 25
    6 x 3 surface box 6
    Couplings 60
    Bulk head light 5
    Fisher plugs 2
    Insulation tape 3
    Cable glands 5
    Wood screws box 1
    Solvent cement/litre 1
    5000W pure sine wave inverter
    1400W inverter for Clinic

  15. ITEM QTY
    Lamp holders, screw type 7
    DC energy saver bulbs 7
    Switch 4 gang 2 way 1
    Switch 1 gang 2 way 2
    Switch 1 gang 1 way 4
    DSO 13 Amp 6
    19 mm conduit PVC 50
    Nipples 50
    Round Box 45
    Gaddles 80
    2.5 mm sq red 300
    2.5 mm sq black 200
    15 Amp MCB 3
    5 Amp MCB 2
    4 way DB 25
    Cable from Battery Station/m 25
    6 x 3 surface box 6
    Couplings 60
    Bulk head light 5
    Fisher plugs 2
    Insulation tape 3
    Cable glands 5
    Wood screws box 1
    Solvent cement/litre 1
    5000W pure sine wave inverter
    1400W inverter for Clinic

  16. Pingback: A request for solar parts from Zimbabwe « To the Moon

  17. Abbas

    Great project with noble mission,
    This seems to be THE solution for providing technical knowhow to illiterate folks from Arid region of Thar (Sindh). Where Mother Nature has bestowed Solar energy in abundance for the benefit of the people,but majority have dark nights to leave with.
    Looking for the Partnership to provide this SKILL to them.
    This is Excellent job.Keep it Up.Wish You all GODSPEED.

    Project Coordinator
    Rashid Memorial Welfare Organisation.

  18. Ruth Tuma

    I have been amazed by the works of Barefoot College, Can all Africa emulaite the same with so much sunshine wasted and generated electricity becoming more expensive! How can I get those engineers to my village? Please do assist me.

  19. Okeke Anthony

    Nice meeting you again. Am one of your product. I want to get back to you. Plz i need your contact. Here is my no. 08067466421

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