The St Andrews Prize for the Environment

University of St Andrews


2003 Winner

Barefoot Engineers

Barefoot Engineers

This project brought much-needed solar energy to remote Himalayan villages, using so-called ‘barefoot engineers’

Developed by the Indian founder and head of the Barefoot College of Rajasthan, the programme focused on training illiterate and semi-literate women to install and maintain solar power equipment. This transformed the standard of living and independence of their communities and has drastically reduced their use of environmentally harmful fuels.

What Happened Next

The Barefoot College has continued to train semi-literate middle-aged women to solar electrify their own villages, with projects being replicated in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Bolivia, Cameroon, Mali (Timbuktu), Sierra Leone and The Gambia.

In August 2007, thirty women from Bhutan left their villages for the first time to travel to India to become solar engineers. Nearly 500 families in 28 villages were solar-electrified the following year when the women returned to their communities and installed and maintained the solar power systems.

Back to Projects