Bedouin Women to Bring Solar Power to the Desert

I was lucky enough to get the chance to speak to the two women you see pictured above- Rifia and Seiha who are from Jordan- during their stay in India where they were training to become solar engineers. When I eventually managed to track them down (I just kept repeating ‘Jordan?’ to whoever picked up the phone at the college and it worked!), they seemed eager to speak to anyone who spoke Arabic- even if mine is a little on the dodgy side.

This March 2011, they completed their six month training and returned to Jordan to start a new life for their village. Hopefully, they willl manage to attract enough attention for a sponser to pay for the start-up costs for the solar panels- if only so that they get a chance to put their skills into practice and bring solar power to their villages in the harsh deserts of Jordan. Here’s the piece I wrote about them for Green Prophet….

For many living in the harsh and desolate deserts of south Jordan, life without electricity is the norm. Either the infrastructure which provides electricity doesn’t reach them or they simply don’t have the money to afford it. However, all that looks set to change as two women bring to light the advantages of solar energy.

Two Jordanian Bedouin women have recently returned from a six-month course at a unique college in India where they were trained as solar engineers. The two women, who are illiterate and have never been employed, were carefully selected by the elders in the village to attend the course at Barefoot college in India which helps poor rural communities become more sustainable.

“We’ve been taught about solar energy and solar panels and how to generate light,” explains Rafi’a Abdul Hamid, a mother of four who lives in a tent in the deserts of south Jordan. “Hopefully when we return we will be able to teach others and use everything we’ve learnt here in India to improve our village.”

Building Sustainable Bedouin Communities

Many of the Bedouin communities in Jordan which previously lived off their herds, are now highly dependent on government handouts. They usually make up the poorest sector of society and have a very low standard of living. As such the government sees this project as a strategic way to encourage these poor villages to generate their own energy and also become more self-sufficient.

Raouf Dabbas, the senior advisor to the Ministry of Environment in Jordan told Green Prophet: “Providing this green technology to the rural community, whilst it will not have a major impact on reducing climate change, it will have a profound impact on the socio-economic position of the bedouins and it will help improve their standard of living.”

Read the full article which was published at Green Prophet.

6 responses to “Bedouin Women to Bring Solar Power to the Desert

  1. Arwa: what are the start-up costs for the solar panels for the village? Is it a well-defined figure, or if not, what is a rough (order of magnitude) estimate, if you know?

    • Hey Murtaza,
      You know I’m not quite sure but I’ll drop Rouaf Dabbas a quick email and see if I can find out!

  2. Hey Murtaza
    I hope this answers some questions..
    “last week we met in their village (about 300 Km East of the capitol Amman)with both the village elders and residents and together with the NGO working in that area prepared a work plan for moving forward. The plan includes setting up their own cooperative, getting training on how to manage the cooperative, setting up the training, maintenance and equipment storage area and empowering the villagers to support the project. We have submitted the project to several donors and hopefully soon we will have a response for the initial amount needed to get started.
    Raouf Dabbas
    Senior Advisor
    Ministry of Environment

  3. Thanks for pursuing my inquiry! It’s good to know that they seem to be legitimately motivated to making this happen.

  4. HI Arwa, would be interesting to know the progress of the project.
    What did these 2 woman achieve so far?
    also any rough figure about the amount needed to get started?

  5. Dear Murtaza,
    thank you for your interest.
    Exactly one year has passed by and still we are waiting for donor assistance. We’ve tried UNDP/GEF where the local representative informed us that there were no funds available at this time. The Ministry of Planning in Jordan responsible for supporting small socio-economic projects also turned us down, our hopes now are focused on the Jordan Environment Protection Fund who also have been presented with the 3 year technical capacity building proposal for the Rural Solar Electrification project . The Jordan Society for Sustainable development NGO is following up their proposal closely with the Fund at this time. There is a 50- 50 chance they will be successful. It’s important to note that the Barefoot Collage in India has also been trying from their end to help find the necessary funding as well , they’ve already provided the village with a container of parts, panels and batteries which lead to the successful assembly of 3 solar systems in 3 of their homes. The Bedouin women have demonstrated that they possess the knowledge and experience to put the systems together all they need is to set up a sustainable administrative and financial governance system in order to properly conduct the training and assembly activities.
    Sincerely ,
    Raouf Dabbas

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