The lives of four grandmothers from the rural village of Agome Sevah, Togo in West Africa have undergone an amazing transformation. The women travelled 5000 miles to Rajasthan in India where they trained over a six month period in Solar Electronics at the famous Barefoot College. There, they were mentored by like-minded Indian women, some of whom were themselves graduates of the College.
Leaving their families in Togo for such a long period of time was difficult for them but their reward was to become Solar Grandmothers with the prospect of electrifying their village on their return.
On completion of their training at the college, the Solar Grandmothers returned to their villages to install, maintain, and train others in solar electrification. Schools, clinics, places of worship and private homes could now have artificial light, with the potential to improve the education, health and social lives of the villagers.
The women Barefoot Solar Engineers of Africa aim to improve the lives of the rural poor living on less than €1 a day in remote inaccessible villages off the energy grids in the 21 least developed countries in Africa, supplying their communities with clean, low cost household lighting from solar energy.
The Barefoot Approach has reached remote, poor, rural villages in 25 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Illiterate rural mothers and grandmothers who have never left their villages before training in India have solar electrified their own villages.
The College believes that the very poor have every right to control, manage and own the most sophisticated of technologies to improve their own lives, Just becaause they cannot read and write, there is no reason that poor women cannot be solar engineers.
Photojournalist Lar Boland travelled to the Barefoot College in Rajasthan to document the training of 4 Grandmothers – Akouavi, Hotitode, Mialo Tassi and Togoalise – from the rural village of Agome Sevah, Togo. He then went to their village in Togo to photograph the work of the Solar Grandmothers as they installed maintained and taught others in solar electrification in the village and its surroundings. See slideshow to the right.
Lar Boland travelled to Togo with support from the Simon Cumbers Media Fund, which is funded by Irish Aid. The fund was set up in memory of Irish journalist Simon Cumbers. In June 2004, at the age of 36, Cumbers was shot dead in Saudi Arabia while working with the BBC.