A Case Study of Barefoot College, Village Tilonia, Rajasthan
Barefoot was established in 1972 to address problems of the rural population and make them self sufficient. Its focus areas include solar energy, water, education, health care, rural employment, communication, women empowerment, wasteland development, social awareness and conservation of ecological systems. The Barefoot College is located in Tilonia Gram Panchayat of Kishangarh Block in Ajmer District of Rajasthan and has been pioneering solar electrification in rural, remote and non electrified villages since 1989.
The Barefoot college made a modest beginning with 145 Watt mini solar plant and has now became the first fully solar electrified campus (80,000 square feet area) in rural India. The college has demystified solar technology, making it available to poor and neglected communities. These installations are carried out by Barefoot Solar Engineers (BSEs) who are either illiterate or semi literate men/women. Barefoot College Campus meets its energy needs through 50 kilowatt solar modules, which have 5 battery banks. The college has also institutionalized illiterate and semi-literate women who independently fabricate, install and maintain 2.5 square metre parabolic solar cookers. The partners in the Barefoot initiative are Ministry of New & Renewable Energy (MNRE) and Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency Limited (IREDA), the Indian Technical and Economical Cooperation (ITEC) and United Nations Special Commonwealth Assistance for Africa programme (UNESCAP).
The electrification process involves orientation of community members on the benefits of solar lighting. A consultation takes place between community members and Village Environment Energy Committee (VEEC) to map needs and aspirations of village community to the responsibilities that need to be assumed. One ‘Rural Electronic Workshop (REW)’ is also maintained by trained BSEs in the village to install, repair, and maintain solar lighting units. The college provides a choice between two kinds of solar lighting units – fixed home lighting systems and solar lanterns. To obtain solar electricity, each household needs to pay an affordable contribution every month, irrespective of their economic status. This ensures effective participation, ownership and responsibility of each section of the village society. The monthly fee to be paid is determined on the basis of the monthly amount a household spends on kerosene, candles, torch batteries and wood for lighting purposes. The Barefoot approach for rural solar electrification has been replicated across 751 villages in 16 states of India and 20 other underdeveloped countries. Nearly 2 Lakh (0.2 million) people have been provided clean energy globally. Collective efforts have benefited at least 8,96,000 people worldwide.