On 6 December last in Hanoi (Vietnam), GRET and its partner, the Indian NGO Barefoot College, organised a workshop to mark the end of a solar engineering training project for Vietnamese women. Launched in 2014 and supported by the Find endowment fund and Cartier Philanthropy, the main objective of this project was to improve access to electricity in isolated villages located in the mountainous region of Thanh Hoa, in the north of Vietnam.
The collaboration with Barefoot College, which guarantees the sustainability of the project, made it possible for four Vietnamese women, recruited from the villages targeted by the project, to travel to India to be trained over a six-month period to work as “Solar Mamas”. Thanks to the solar kits they installed, and which they also maintain, 226 Vietnamese families (i.e. approximately 1,000 villagers) can now use electricity and benefit from electric light at night time. This initiative also made it possible to revitalise economic development in villages by proposing new income-generating activities.
The workshop marking the end of the project was an opportunity for participants (among whom the “Solar Mamas”, village chiefs, a representative from the province and the project leaders), to share results and findings, give their feedback and analyse future prospects. Various management bodies - such as a village solar committee making it possible to manage solar activities with each “Solar Mama”, and a solar fund (financed by villagers who pay two euros a month into it) dedicated to forthcoming repairs and to tools for managing monitoring of payments – ensure the sustainability of the activities set up by GRET and its partner. However, in this highly isolated rural context, the development of economic activities remains a complex challenge that must be further explored during forthcoming experimentations.