Trained Corps of “Barefoot Solar Engineers” to Assist Remote Off-the-Grid Villages In Applying Benefits of Solar Power to Improve Everyday Life
Nairobi, Kenya – Thanks to the efforts of the Basecamp Concept (http://www.basecampexplorer.com/ and http://www.basecampfoundation.org/), five Maasai grandmothers from different villages arrived back in their manyattas (fence-encircled hut compounds) March 15 after six months in India studying applications of solar energy and how best to apply it to village huts made of mud and topped with thatch and sometimes mabati (metal).
Basecamp Explorer and Basecamp Foundation are Norway’s eco and adventure tourism pioneers with subsidiaries in, among others, Kenya, the Arctic, the Pyrenees and India. Through its affiliation with India’s Barefoot College, these women are now “barefoot solar engineers” who, despite being illiterate, have through sign language mastered skills enabling them to install solar lighting in five villages with some 120 dwellings. The lighting will allow women to make their beadwork inside previously dark houses and allow children improved study conditions.
They learned how to interpret solar designs, fabricate sophisticated charge controllers and how to install solar panels and solar batteries. The hope is that after local installation, children will have more light for reading and studying and that solar will minimize the use of kerosene lamps that are expensive to burn and log fires in huts for lighting that can cause respiratory problems due to poor ventilation.
Basecamp Foundation and Mara Naboisho Conservancy worked together to bring the villages into the initiative and to select the participating women. An example of one woman is Naisuisui Enololkumum, age 49, from Endoinyo Erinka Village. She is a mother of six and grandmother to three. Her village has 49 houses set up in a typical Maasai style.
The project began last June when Bunker Roy a Director and founder of Barefoot College India, visited villages neighbouring Mara Naboisho Conservancy that lies east of the Maasai Mara National Reserve. The idea was to work with the Norwegian-based Basecamp Foundation and a community conservancy to select remote villages where there was little hope of ever being connected to the Kenya’s power grid and providing them with light through solar power.