Madagascar’s grandmothers bring solar energy to rural Africa | WWF

Madagascar’s grandmothers bring solar energy to rural Africa

Posted on 26 November 2013
WWF/Barefoot College
© WWF/Barefoot College

Brussels, Belgium: WWF and the Indian NGO Barefoot College have started working with women from the poorest communities in rural Africa to train them to become solar engineers and develop clean sustainable energy systems that improve livelihood, security and education for their communities while protecting the pristine environment in which they live. The project and a new WWF report on green energy for Africa were presented in Brussels on the occasion of the European Development Days.

Seven grandmothers from three villages in Madagascar were selected to be part of the first project. They have been trained for six months at the Barefoot College in India, learning how to assemble, install and maintain small PV- systems that could bring solar electricity to their houses. Following the course, they returned to their villages to install and maintain more than 380 solar panels bringing light to more than 2500 villagers. 
“We went to class from 9 until 3 o’clock in the afternoon every day except for the week-ends. We were mounting and dismounting solar PV modules, fabricating charge controllers and solar lanterns as quickly as possible. The first days were difficult. But once we were familiarised with the tuition and the communication methods, we managed to master the techniques. A great experience as students and as women” said Philomène, a 50 year old new solar engineer, from Tsaratànana, North of Madagascar.
“By choosing illiterate people, we show that everyone can contribute to better living conditions in villages” says Voahirana Randriambola, Footprint Coordinator at WWF Madagascar. “Having light after sunset means that people can continue working to produce handcrafts or read books and study thus benefiting the economy and education of a family. But light can even make the difference between life and death when a woman has to give birth in the dark”.
The project is part of WWF’s effort to develop new energy solutions to respond to Africa’s increasing energy demands for the future. A new WWF report “Boa Nguvu: An African sustainable energy country” shows how a typical Sub-Saharan country like Boa Nguvu (fictive name meaning “Good Energy” in Portuguese and Swahili) can develop a mix of energy systems, including solar, hydro, wind and sustainable biomass, to give clean energy to all its people by 2030. The report brings together successful cases of energy initiatives in Africa, thereby giving very tangible examples of what can be further developed in the future.
“Sub-Saharan Africa's population is growing faster than the rest of the world, so we need to make sure these people have electricity and that they get it from the most sustainable sources. This study shows how and where Africa can best use its potential for solar, hydro and sustainable wood to guarantee energy to all its people, in cities and in rural areas, by 2030 while protecting the environment”, says Jean-Philippe Denruyter, Global Renewable Energy Policy Manager at WWF International. 
“Africa has lots of potential for clean and cheap energy sources but a lot more needs to happen to harness this potential. This is where African governments, European donors and businesses need to invest, if we ever want to give a future to more than one billion young Africans and to the environment on which they depend”, concluded Denruyter.
WWF is calling on the European Commission to support the development of sustainable energy solutions in developing countries and to increase its effort towards community-based approaches to energy access.
For further information
Jean-Philippe Denruyter
Manager, Global Renewable Energy Policy, 
WWF International
Phone: +32 2 740 09 27
Mob: +32 496 126805
Stefania campogianni
Communication and Media 
WWF European Policy Office
Mob +32 499 539736