Women’s (solar) energy in solidarity projects

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Information about Women’s (solar) energy in solidarity projects

Published on March 10, 2014

Author: ValeriaVerga

Source: slideshare.net


This article presents three case studies on the use of solar energy, both thermal and photovoltaic, in small and poor communities in developing countries. These communities are living in impoverished conditions, but are located in areas that enjoy abundant sunshine; places, therefore, where solar energy can be used both to improve the living conditions of local populations and to protect the environment.

WOMEN’S (SOLAR) ENERGY IN SOLIDARITY PROJECTS by Valeria Verga This article presents three case studies on the use of solar energy, both thermal and photovoltaic, in small and poor communities in developing countries. These communities are living in impoverished conditions, but are located in areas that enjoy abundant sunshine; places, therefore, where solar energy can be used both to improve the living conditions of local populations and to protect the environment. In the summer 2003, Solar Cookers International launched the project "Sunny Solutions" in Nyakach (Kenya), a community of farmers and fishermen. The community is impoverished, suffers from a high incidence of HIV and is badly affected by environmental degradation from water-borne diseases. Considering that in this area there is abundant sunshine for over six months of the year, the first objective was to create a market for the sale of "solar cookers" by micro-enterprises. It was decided that they should be managed and run by local women. These women began to produce and sell, in a single package, the "Solar CooKit" that utilizes solar thermal technology both for cooking food and for pasteurizing water. The project was carried out in three stages: 1. In collaboration with a local organization, the SCI conducted demonstrations addressed to leaders and local government officials, women's groups, doctors, etc., of how the solar cooker is used and how the solar water pasteurization process functions. Several dozen solar CooKits

Valeria Verga / Women’s (Solar) Energy / 2 were provided for home testing to the women who, during the demonstrations, had shown particular interest and motivation. 2. Women who then frequently used the solar Cookits as well as those who had previous experience in commercial activities, were then invited to attend a short training course to become sales representatives of solar cookers. The training course focused not only on how to use the kitchen, but also on developing entrepreneurial and business skills. These included the concepts of microfinance, communications and marketing. 3. After their training, these "women entrepreneurs" began to conduct product demonstrations in their community’s markets, churches and other public places, creating widespread awareness of the use of solar cookers. These women were then able to generate revenue by building and selling kitchens and ensuring widespread access to their very low priced solar "CooKits”. Awareness campaigns and public demonstrations to over 113,000 people (about 80% of the community), resulted in a sale of more than 3,000 solar "CooKits" to 2,600 families. This produced for them a number of benefits including less time spent by women and girls collecting firewood, a consequent reduction of their exposure to smoke, a lower incidence of water-borne diseases, a higher household income, all of which brought greater self- esteem and status for the women involved. The second case study involves Barefoot College an NGO, founded in the 1970’s in India in the state of Rajasthan. It provides essential services and practical solutions to

Valeria Verga / Women’s (Solar) Energy / 3 the problems of rural communities living in conditions of poverty and marginalization, with the aim of making them self-sufficient and sustainable. In 2005, Barefoot College launched a training course on solar energy addressed to women in Tilonia, India. The village is not connected to a power grid and more than 40% of the population had no access to electricity. After sunset, lighting was provided with lanterns fueled by kerosene, which is environmentally harmful as well as dangerous to the users. From Tilonia, about 15,000 women over the age of 35, many of them illiterate or semi-illiterate and who had never left their village were chosen by villagers to be trained as "solar engineers." After their six month training course, they were enabled to bring renewable electricity for lighting to their villages. These trained women were then responsible for the manufacture, installation, operation and maintenance of the solar systems. Women "solar engineers" trained by Barefoot College brought electricity to more than 600 villages in 33 Countries. Their efforts resulted in a savings 1.5 million liters of kerosene, safer communities with healthier environments. The main objective of Barefoot College’s training courses is to enhance the expertise already present in a community. The courses are designed to enable the members of a community to develop specific expertise in the field of solar energy. Barefoot College recognizes that only the villagers know how and where it is better to use solar energy in their own village. This approach has the effect of encouraging residents to maximize the use of local resources, with consequent benefits on the self-reliance of the community, as well as on the health of its members and the environment in which they live. The third case study involves Reseda Onlus, a social cooperative that works in the field of ecology and renewable energy. In 2007, Reseda began a collaboration with CIRPS (Interuniversity Research Centre on Sustainable Development of the University La Sapienza

Valeria Verga / Women’s (Solar) Energy / 4 of Rome) in the Saharawi refugee camps in Tindouf, Algeria. In 2008, Reseda and CIRPS launched the project "Orti solari familiari” (Solar family vegetable gardens). The main objective of the project was to establish a sustainable small agricultural system in desert land environments, using simple and reliable tools that would ensure villager’s independent access to fresh garden products and provide a self-sustaining village agricultural livelihood. The project used technologies that had been developed according to the principles of “appropriate technologies” with a particular emphasis on integrating them with the resources - skills, habits and so on, already present in the camps. The project was divided into two main phases: In the first phase, the women in the camp were educated on the objectives of the project. They were then shown what tools would be given to each family (a PV module, an inverter, a pump, a charge controller, etc.), and how they should use this equipment in working in their gardens in order to increase the growth of their fresh fruits and vegetables. The second phase consisted in assisting the villagers in digging their family wells and then distributing to the families all equipment necessary to set up a drip irrigation system powered by a PV module and finally a demonstration of how to organize and maintain their solar gardens. As can be seen, the impact was twofold: bringing practical help and technical support to villagers living in difficult conditions and enhancing the resources available to them. First, the villagers took advantage of the ever-abundant sun, a free and natural resource, greatly

Valeria Verga / Women’s (Solar) Energy / 5 reducing their dependence on outside sources. Second, through the women’s expertise and facilitation, the villagers learned how to manage and maintain their own solar garden and were thereby empowered to create a network of mutual assistance capable of spreading expertise beyond the limits of the project. These briefly described case studies, are characterized by an approach that integrates the following elements: 1. They are solidarity projects based on the use of local resources (natural, human, organizational, etc.) and involving impoverished villages, refugee camps and their extended communities. 2. They employ solar energy technologies that take advantage of abundant sunshine and are situated in areas where conventional energy resources are scarce or at very high costs. 3. In these projects women play a crucial role as mediators and facilitators multiplying local resources and reinforcing already existing community networks and empowering greater community self-sustainability. Solar energy, thus, becomes not only an option of energy policy but also an instrument of social and economic policy. On December 12, 2011 the Italian version of this article was published by QualEnergia.it

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