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Barefoot Women Solar Electrification Engineers

By Wayan Vota on September 4, 2009

Here is an interesting video from the Barefoot College solar program in which they’ve trained illiterate women from African villages to be solar engineers for their communities in just 6 months:

Barefoot College makes four key points about their program model:

  1. Work with the community to make sure they are willing to accept the woman as a technician before she travels to India for the training
  2. Do not include “paper certified” technicians in the process, they cannot be seen as equals by the communities or the local technicians
  3. No certificates – its the community that certifies technicians. Certificates only promote leaving communities for city jobs.
  4. Partnership models work in rural areas – the government or donor buys the initial solar equipment and the community pays technician for ongoing maintenance

Using the numbers in the video of 60 women trained and 40 villages solar electrified for $1.4 million, or $35,000 per village, I would say that the Barefoot Engineers have a pretty cost effective program. I would only suggest that training the women in Africa, rather than flying them to India, might even generate a greater cost/benefit scale.

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Written by
Wayan Vota co-founded ICTworks and is the Digital Health Director at IntraHealth International. He also co-founded Technology Salon, MERL Tech, ICTforAg, ICT4Djobs, ICT4Drinks, JadedAid, Kurante, OLPC News and a few other things. Opinions expressed here are his own and do not reflect the position of IntraHealth International or other ICTWorks sponsors.
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2 Comments to “Barefoot Women Solar Electrification Engineers”

  1. Bunker Roy says:

    Training the women in Africa would not serve the purpose of opening their eyes, broadening their vision, testing their skills living and working with different african communities in one location and challenging them to live and work and learn in an entirely different environment.
    The Indian Government pays the air fare and 6 months training costs all the women who have come from 15 different countries in Africa.
    Bunker Roy

  2. Wayan Vota says:


    I would have to disagree. You do not need to fly women to India to opening their eyes , broaden their vision, and test their skills. They could do all three with different African communities, in Africa.

    The only bonus to sending them to India is that the Indian Government pays the airfare and 6 months training costs.