For the first time, Barefoot College, with its partners, commit to launch six regional training centers in Africa. The centers will be modeled on Barefoot's campus in Tilonia, India, which trains rural women as solar engineers, water managers, artisans, health workers, teachers, and advocates. Each center will have the local leadership, capacity, programs, partnerships, and funding to be successful and sustainable.
Host countries are Burkina Faso, Liberia, Senegal, South Sudan, Tanzania, and the semi-autonomous region of Zanzibar. Countries were selected based on governments' interest in piloting and scaling solutions, and the presence of promising non-governmental organization (NGO) partners.
Barefoot will work with national governments to sustainably fund the centers through allocations in their national rural electrification budgets. This partnership between centers and governments will institutionalize decentralized, community-managed, and clean energy initiatives that empower rural women economically and as environmental stewards.
Women from each country will be trained in Tilonia as Barefoot Solar Engineers (BSEs) and return to their countries to help launch the centers. With Barefoot professionals and partners on the ground, they will replicate Barefoot's Solar Program, training other women to solar electrify their villages.
Over the commitment period of three and a half years, 480 women BSEs will be trained, and each will be able to train other women after completing her course. An additional 80 Master Trainers will learn skills to operate the centers. BSEs will bring inexpensive, reliable, and clean energy to 24,000 households. Barefoot also will establish Rural Electronic Workshops in 100 villages for BSEs to access tools, parts and resources, and ultimately, will transition oversight of the centers to local BSEs and partners. During and after the commitment, Barefoot and partners will incorporate additional programming in water management, education, financial and enterprise skills, health, artisanship, women's empowerment, and civil society skills.
1. Government Buy-In (by December 2014)
Barefoot College has secured a written Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the initial build and long-term oversight and support from each host government. The College will create partnerships with local organizations to generate grassroots and governmental approval of the project. These partnerships will help Barefoot select the location of each center and begin funding the build.
2. Training Center Construction (all centers built by October 2015)
Centers will undergo sustainable construction or renovation, including solar electrification, eco-sanitation and rainwater harvesting capabilities. Anticipated construction time is six to eight months per center.
3. Program Launch & Expansion (all programs launched by November 2015)
Barefoot will train an initial group of eight women solar engineers from each region at the Tilonia campus between September 2014 and September 2015. After their six-month immersive training experience, BSEs will return to their countries to oversee solar electrification of new centers, and selection and teaching of the first group of locally trained engineers. Barefoot will partner with local social enterprises and NGOs to bring additional opportunities to the centers.
4. Transition to Sustainability (all centers transitioned by December 2017)
Barefoot will guide operations for the first 24 months of programming. During this time, Barefoot and its ground partners will develop Master Trainers' capabilities to manage and operate the centers directly with indigenous NGO support and in direct relationship with host governments. Barefoot also will establish village-based Rural Electronic Workshops. After two years, country-specific governmental and non-governmental organizations will sign a new MOU for a multi-year commitment to assume operations of the centers, further promoting indigenous oversight and long-term sustainability. The College will continue to work with local partners for technology and education support, parts and training component supply, communication, tablets, and other tools for ongoing monitoring and evaluation.
Globally, 1.6 billion people do not have access to electricity. More than 75% of those people are located in rural areas and are often indigenous and tribal groups who are cut off from grid power (due to cost or remote location) and without access to centralized development efforts implemented 'top down' by governments and multilaterals. In every region, women suffer under the harshest conditions of poverty. They are unable to realize their full potential within their families and communities or play a substantial role in community decision-making; their ability to be effective environmental stewards is rarely developed.
Most conventional development solutions targeting the rural poor fail to take hold at the village level. These solutions miss the mark in two ways. One, they rely on tools and technologies that are overwrought with complicated installation or upkeep, creating communities dependent on outside help; two, they do not train and employ the rural poor themselves or incorporate them into the development process, thus ignoring the group best positioned to sustain solutions over time: the rural poor themselves.
40 years of experience have taught Barefoot College that formal education and qualifications are not required for the rural poor to bring sustainable energy, clean water, and sustainable livelihoods to their communities. The College creates decentralized solutions that work at the village level, offering practical learning that crosses language and literacy barriers, and marrying this learning to innovative technologies; this demystifies, decentralizes, and puts solutions in the rural poor's control. Since 1989, Barefoot's flagship solar electrification program has trained 664 illiterate and semi-literate women as solar engineers. They have electrified 40,000 rural households in 1,265 villages in 64 countries across Latin and South America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia to serve 500,000 people, installing and maintaining equipment, and receiving a salary for their services.