“Barefoot Engineers” Bring Light to Remote Villages
Four women from three desert villages in the Trarza region, southwestern Mauritania have helped to bring a new way of life to their communities after training as solar engineers.
Today, women in remote villages can cook on improved stoves by solar lamp light; children are able to do homework in the evenings; lighting bills are more affordable; and women hold night meetings in good light.
Through a project supported by the LWF/Department for World Service (DWS) Mauritania country program, the women were sent to the Barefoot College in Tilonia, India, for a six-month training in 2008. They included Fatimetou Aleyoute from Mufth-El-Kheir; Salka Meissara from PK 48 El-Jesira; and Aichietou Mkhailig and Bowba Brahim from El Garva. All of them came from poor communities and were illiterate; and none of them had travelled abroad before.
Yet within weeks of returning to Mauritania they had managed to set up a solar electricity system for the three small villages of about 50 households each.
They did not work alone. Each of the communities had elected a local committee, agreed on a monthly amount to be paid to maintain the system, opened a bank account and built a small workshop for the engineer.
In return community members received one 37 watt solar panel, one 12 volt battery, one charger, two nine watt lamps and one solar lantern.
Meissara sums up the various advantages of the solar project. “We now have day and night lighting that enables us to manage time effectively in view of home work for school-going children; and the community’s chores in the evening and at night. The accessibility to mobile telephone chargers facilitates not only contacts by telephone but consequently also reduces the amount of money and time that would be spent on road transportation.”
Many other villages have expressed interest in this pilot project.