In Rwanda, grandmothers are becoming solar engineers to bring electricity and sustainable development home!
The Volcans Biosphere Reserve in Rwanda is home to many of the world’s last surviving Mountain Gorillas of which only 1,000 are still in existence. Their habitat has faced constant pressure from the harvesting of forest wood for energy by the local population. However, a new training program supported by UNESCO’s MAB Programme, the Barefoot College in India and the Indian Government may be about to change this situation.
The six-month program in India trains Rwandese grandmothers to become fully qualified solar engineers. On their return to their country, they receive renewable energy generators which they install themselves.
The lights powered by solar energy are safer and more economical than candles, which are costly and generate harmful fumes. They also allow students to study at night under better conditions, while portable solar lights improve security when walking outside after dark.
In addition to these and other lifestyle changes in the communities, the initiative created opportunities for participants to learn new skills and become empowered by the experience. Thanks to the success of this project the approach will likely be replicated in other biosphere reserves where energy access remains a challenge.