TRAINING NEW SOLAR ENGINEERS; EMPOWERING FUTURE LEADERS
Sometimes, bringing light to a community starts with empowering the right people to take charge. A unique project – ‘The Solar Mamas’ – has created the opportunity to establish and harness an independent supply of solar energy, transforming the lives of villagers from rural Africa. The first group of 10 women from northern Senegal has already brought green electricity and a transferrable set of skills to their local communities and having earned solar energy and maintenance technician certificates, attended their May 2022 graduation ceremony, supported by the programme partners, Barefoot College International and DP World.
A journey of partnership
The women had made their way to Toubab Dialao, a village around 60km away from the capital, Dakar, for an intensive six-month course in solar energy infrastructure building. For many of them, it was the first time they had left their hometowns, and they were returning with the knowledge, skills, and tools to start transforming their communities.
The training and certification are the results of a special partnership between DP World in Dakar and the non-governmental organisation, Barefoot College International (BCI), who host the training at their regional centre.
“Barefoot College International empowers rural women, despite their circumstances and literacy levels, to re-imagine themselves as energy and community leaders. We are enormously grateful for DP World’s tremendous support in Africa, which helps make this work a reality at this vital time.”
- Karine Sar, Regional Director, Barefoot College International
Transforming Lives and Communities
The Solar Mamas, all hailing from rural areas in North-eastern Senegal, are just the first group in the programme to fully qualify as solar energy and maintenance technicians.
Starting with a donation of nearly US$400 000 from DP World, the training covers complete solar electrification engineering skills from scratch. “DP World is essentially the backbone of what we're doing in Africa right now,” Ms. Sarr notes.
It begins with vocational training that is specifically designed and targeted for women who, in many cases, are illiterate, by using documentation that is color-coded with drawings, according to Ms Sarr. “After four months, our students could assemble a complete solar system. It’s the knowledge they’re able to replicate and by the time our first group went home, they were all able to put together these solar systems, repair and maintain them.” she says.
Powered by Knowledge
Beyond their engineering courses, the group completed business development training and sustainability work, as well as learning other skills integral to starting their own solar energy businesses and for keeping businesses running long-term.The students learned how to make charcoal through dead tree leaves without cutting trees, make their own washable sanitary towels, and about women's hygiene.
They also received digital training and training on phones, laptops, tablets, and computers, laptops also being given to each student for use after the course. The training addressed digital literacy skills and instructed the students on the use of cameras, Google and location services.
“I loved these six months spent in Toubab Dialao, where I learned a lot. I never imagined that I could become a professional in solar energy at my age and without ever having been to school. I can't wait to return to my village to bring electricity to my community. Having solar energy in our community will change our lives.”
- Mairame Ba, from Bitel, Graduate of Barefoot College International Regional Training Center in Toubab Dialao
A phenomenal project impacting lives across Senegal
With the continued support of BCI and DP World, each of the Solar Mamas wasted no time getting to work installing systems at home. The graduate trainees were provided with all necessary equipment to build and maintain the solar home lighting systems – 50 solar installation kits each. By the end of the year, 532 rural households were equipped with individual solar home electrification systems across 10 rural communities.
Shining light on new opportunities
The benefits brought home by the Solar Mamas have already been widely felt. In the village of Beli Senno Boboral, for instance, the tailor, businesspeople were able to set up shop in their homes immediately after solar electrification. Previously, some business owners had to travel three hours each way to rented work rooms in the nearest city. Business owners were empowered to not only generate an income without the physical and financial burdens in place previously, but are also able to spend more time with their families while planning for their futures.