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 worldwide 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.
Since 2000, The Barefoot College has been developing and installing solar water heaters to provide rural communities access to a sustainable, smoke-free source of hot water. The programme also generates community engagement and contributions from rural youth, who learn to build and install the heaters. Solar water heaters are made by rural Barefoot fabrication engineers and use sunlight instead of wood or gas to heat the water. They provide a continuous supply of warm water for people living hot or cold climates.
Community-manufactured solar water now serve thousands of people living in rural, remote villages in eight states of India.
India’s first ever solar powered reverse osmosis plant produces 3,600 litres of clean water daily and provides drinking water for over 1,000 villagers. The system provides potable water through reverse osmosis: brackish water flows at a high pressure through a thin membrane. The purified water is free of salts and contaminants, which are stored in tanks and collected from pipes in the evening.
The plant reduces the salinity of locally available water, making it safe to drink and free of any salty taste. It is powered by a 2.5-kilowatt solar generator that creates an uninterrupted supply of water without relying on the standard electric grid.
In November 2003, The Barefoot College created the Society of Women Barefoot Solar Cooker Engineers in Tilonia, Rajasthan. It is the first association of illiterate and semi-literate women who fabricate, install and maintain parabolic solar cookers in their homes. The parabolic solar cooker is constructed from 300 mirrors that reflect the sun's rays onto the bottom of a cooking pot to cook food quickly and sustainably. Women who once spent long hours searching for firewood can spend their time on other productive activities. Communities with solar cookers can expand their livelihood opportunities and limit the negative effects of deforestation and pollution.
Of harmful carbon emissions avoided by replacing kerosene with solar as a source of clean energy for light, heat and cooking
with solar systems installed
From Aljareera.com: After a lifetime of dark evenings in her Mayan village, Florentine arrived at Barefoot College with the ambition to bring solar light and power back to her hometown. "I never thought I could do anything. My life revolved around planting corns and cassava," Florentine said. "I only studied till class six you know, I don’t read or write much. I had no idea what a solar panel is or that sun can bring electricity. I was surprised to even discover a solar lamp when I first came here. But now I can fix a solar light.”