“By giving the rural poor access to practical technology, Barefoot
College demystifies technology and puts it in the hands of the villagers
themselves.” – Mr. Bunker Roy, founder of Barefoot College
College in Tilonia, India was founded by Bunker Roy in the year 1972 with the
simple belief that the solution to the problems faced by the rural poor people
lies within the community, their own old traditions and new technologies which
requires some adaptation to their situation.
on this belief Bunker Roy Started up a Solar Lightening Initiative in the year
1990 in order to provide rural solar electrification to the villages which are
inaccessible, remote and non-electrified.
idea was not based on any innovative product but was mainly focused on an
innovative methodology used to solve the age old problem of darkness in the
remote villages. The methodology used is quite different from the traditional
process used by other renewable organisations, which makes it remarkable in its
The methodology involves-
first the a village which is remote and unelectrified in selected for this
village community are explained about the services and then asked to select two
middle age women from the community who could go and attain solar training for
six months in Barefoot College. Selection of Women are for a surprise to the
village community, however they are insisted and persuaded to do so.
Barefoot used to train young, illiterate and semi-illiterate men and women,
however with time they realized that the middle age mothers and grandmothers
are the best candidate as they are very humble and easy to teach .They have a
lot more interest to do something for village and would never leave the village
however a young women after marriage has to leave the village and a young men
with new skill and knowledge would tend to leave his village in search of a
Trainees come from different parts of India and other developing countries but
illiteracy and language does not create a barrier in their learning rather they
learn through sign language ,shapes ,drawings ,colors and symbols.They are not
taught by any formal professionals rather are taught by the semi illiterate
village people who already have gain experience in Barefoot solar programmes
mere six months they learn how to install solar panels ,link batteries, how to
handle complex charge controllers and inverters, how to build solar laterns and
to establish a local electronic workshop where they can carry out maintenance
and repair work themselves.
believed that illiteracy and education is two different things. Illiteracy is
the one that a child gains from school while education is what we learn from
family, environment and personal experience. Hence this keen interest and
belief to work for their own community enable these women to learn such design
irrespective of their old age .These trained women are later termed as “SOLAR
training these Solar Mamas return back to their own villages and install solar
panels and start solar electrifying each house without the assistance of any
qualified engineer. They even carry out the maintenance and repair work by
themselves for which they are paid monthly by the village community
themselves-usually the amount the used to append on kerosene before. Later they
share their skill among other women in the community making them self
aspects of the programme
were certain aspects and criteria followed by the barefoot college which the
made this programme unique and sustainable in such a long run.
Bonding with other Social problems:
Apart from solving the energy issue through the solar electrification programme,
Barefoot tried to bond this energy solution to solve other major social
problems of the community.
example: In the Tilonia village were the solar programme was first started,
lack of asses to drinking water was the major issue. Barefoot stared training
the villager about solar powered water desalination plant which could provide
them drinking water. Apart from this they taught people the importance of
age-old practice of harvesting rain water. They also provided solutions in
dams, water mapping and testing all of which was done by the village people themselves.
solar programme also enabled the introduction of night school run through solar
light. Women’s were also taught how to built and use Solar Water heaters and
parabolic solar cookers .
Involvement of Community and making them
self-sufficient: Community involvement in any new
technology developed for welfare of the community defines the sustainability of
Example: In the barefoot Solar programme, at first Community gathers together
to understand the advantages of electricity and possibility of village being
solar powered. Community is explained that the service provided to them won’t
be free of cost and they must decide how much they can contribute monetarily
towards the maintenance and repair. Usually the amount is based on what they
spend on kerosene. Thus, relieving them from the sense of dependability and
developing sense of self-sufficiency among them.Later community itself is asked
to select two members for training .
involvement of community in every step helped to develop a faith and trust
towards the Barefoot College.
Partnership with various Organisations:
Success of the solar programme is because of the partnership network developed
by the Barefoot College. Partnerships between Multilateral organisation,
Government agencies, and private foundations with a common motive to serve poor
and the community itself enable the solar programme to reach the rural
communities in developing countries.
the solar programme ITEC funds the training of the participants whereas the
equipment cost incurred during the training process is borne by participants
communities, the participants government , MDBs
and international donors.
Impact of the
Women empowerment-basically in rural community women’s are confined
inside house restricting them to household activities but with such Barefoot
programmes women’s felt
more empowered and confident as solar engineers. Cross- cultural learning
during training help them to understand each other making them more confident
Villages “Go Green”-Utilizing
solar electrification reduces the use of kerosene, wood ,hence decreasing air
pollution, fire and health hazards.
grams of harmful carbon emissions is already been avoided by replacing kerosene
with solar as a source of light, heat and cooking. (Barefoot College).Annual; Kersonen
consumption in villages across Mozambique fell by 27,375 litres snd firewood
consumption fell by 91,250 metric tonnes . (Lauren Remedious, 2013)
Socio economic Impact- Community
could save a lot on kerosene and battery Expenditure.For example- beneficiaries
in Ghana have been able to save 76% in solar energy expenditure over kerosene. (Lauren Remedious, 2013)
The work load and labour for women was reduced
who would otherwise walk miles to bring
wood, hence could utilize time in productive activities. Community can involve more in economic
activities as day does not end with sunset.eg women carry out handicrafts work
which is a means of earning to them.
rural organization in fourteen different states of India are already using Barefoot solutions to tackle community issues.
They work independently but come together as a network named SAMPDA and work to
innovate and develop methods to empower rural.Replication of training centres
in Africa, Latin America has also been done.
Together ,Solving the energy issues
along with other major social issues by involving variouis partners and the
community itself in the process of change ,has led to a sustainable model for Barefoot College.