Barefoot College

pdf SGP Barefoot College (1.22 MB) Communities in remote, rural areas traditionally lack access to conventional power sources. As these communities have to rely on kerosene or firewood for basic energy needs, pressure on the local environment have increased dramatically having a negative impact on the global environment. It is estimated that one rural family in Africa typically burns 60 liters of kerosene a year, releasing one ton of CO2 in less than ten years.

Solar energy provides an alternative energy solution while simultaneously spurring progress in human development including poverty reduction, gender equality, education and health. However, there is a need to enhance the capacities of local communities to build, install, maintain and repair solar technologies and local women could play a significant role in addressing this issues.

For this reason, in 2008 the GEF Small Grants Program (SGP) decided to enter into a partnership agreement with Barefoot College and support "Women Solar Engineer" pilot projects across Africa's and Asia's poorest countries. In this collaborative effort, the GEF SGP provides communities with technical support and funding for the solar panel kits. The Barefoot College, a pioneer in demystifying complex technological processes for illiterate students, offers a six-month training to the women beneficiaries of the GEF SGP on their campus in Tilonia, India.

Barefoot College - At the college putting together solar panels


The goal of this "Women Solar Engineer" initiative is to build local capacity and electrify poor, "off-the-grid" communities with clean, low-cost solar energy. As such, the project is uniquely positioned to address multiple development goals at once:

  • relieving environmental stress by providing an alternative energy source
  • bridging the gender gap by empowering poor, illiterate women
  • promoting sustainable development outcomes through community ownership and
  • enabling improvements in health, education, living standards and quality of life

The GEF SGP also provides support in awareness raising, monitoring and evaluation, promotion of the project at the community level, and mobilization of other partners to support the projects. Its National Coordinators and National Steering Commitees play a fundamental role in each of the country programmes where the partnership operates.


The initiative has since expanded to 18 countries. To date, SGP has supported 28 projects investing USD$ 1 million and raising over $1.5 million in co-financing. As a result, 71 women have been trained as solar engineers, who electrified 3,778 households in 52 villages. This has improved the quality of life for more than 22,700 beneficiaries. Women and girls especially have benefited as they are now able to devote more time to education and income-generating activities. As for environmental impacts, the communities have eased pressure on deforestation and air pollution by switching from firewood and kerosen to solar energy.
SGP-Barefoot Women Solar Engineers Brochure
Learn more about Barefoot College.

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