Malagasy ‘solar grandmothers’ electrifying villages through WWF sustainable energy initiative | WWF

Malagasy ‘solar grandmothers’ electrifying villages through WWF sustainable energy initiative

Posted on 12 September 2017
Malagasy grandmothers are repairing solar laterns in Iavomanitra
© WWF Madagascar / Louise Jasper
A group of women in a small village of Ambakivao, Menabe region in Madagascar have have volunteered to be the first "solar engineers" within WWF's  access to sustainable energy program and in collaboration with the Indian NGO Barefoot College. Remeza, Kingeline, Yollande and Hanitra aged between 35 and 50 years, dubbed the solar grandma’s, are working to bring electricity to nearly 200 families in their village. In the past, communities used petroleum lamps but have now taken up solar lamps are used for lighting the house for dinner and other household tasks.

Like a dozen Malagasy women before them these women from Ambakivao join women from several continents and nations in Tilonia, India for a six month training in applied solar technology. Most of the participating women leave their country, sometimes their native regions or villages for the first time in their lives.

The training is intended for women from remote villages in a range of developing countries. Participants must be selected through a village meeting bringing together the entire community, and based on specific criteria to ensure that the women are sufficiently mature and are volunteers. Literacy is not a requirement, however. Along with them, a solar committee elected by the village will manage the administrative, social and financial aspects of the solar equipment, thus ensuring the financial sustainability of the program.

The Barefoot College is an Indian training center established in 1972, helping to bring simple, sustainable solutions to the challenges of rural life including access to clean water, education and health for all and the use of renewable energy.    

Hanitra: "We left Madagascar to learn how to build solar gears and lamps to improve our village's condition but also to reduce our footprint as possible as we can. We had always used petroleum filled lamp, producing smokes that made our children ill and pollute the air. But with this solar technology we are spreading in our village, humans are feeling good, and nature also. It doesn't smoke and doesn't smell bad."

Check out the solar grannies’ fascinating testimony about how empowered they feel due to their training in India: https://youtu.be/aM-UH2S_kOE

As part of a partnership between WWF, Barefoot College, the Indian and Malagasy governments and several additional international institutions, the "Barefoot solar engineers " program was initiated in Madagascar in 2012.
Malagasy grandmothers are repairing solar laterns in Iavomanitra
© WWF Madagascar / Louise Jasper Enlarge
Malagasy women attending training in Tilonia, India.
© WWF Madagascar Enlarge
The solar grandmothers from Menabe after coming back from India
© WWF Madagascar Enlarge

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