THE Barefoot College in India is hoping to establish a regional training centre in Fiji after the popularity of the Barefoot solar electrification program among the Pacific Island countries.
Acting high commissioner of India Ajay Sharma confirmed this at a welcoming ceremony to recognise the achievement and return of Fiji's first 10 solar engineers who have received six months training in solar electrification at the Barefoot College in Tilonia Village, India.
"Two grandmothers from Tonga attended the solar electrification program at the Barefoot College in 2011. This was followed by 10 grandmothers from Fiji and this week four each from Nauru and Kiribati are leaving for India to attend this program," Mr Sharma said.
Permanent secretary for Social Welfare, Women and Poverty Alleviation Govind Sami said Fiji's 10 grandmothers would be instrumental in facilitating the solar electrification program.
"The intention now is to look at the establishment of a regional centre in Fiji so that these solar grandmothers who have been trained as solar engineers will be able to share their skills with women from Pacific Island countries," he said.
"We are in talks with the Barefoot College and the Indian government and we are hoping to expand this program in Fiji."
Mr Sami said the ministry was also working with the United Nations (UN) Women to establish a monitoring unit to assist the 10 solar engineers.
"They will be going back to their villages and their full solar kit will arrive in the country in the next five to eight weeks, which will be sent to solar electrify their villages. There are some villages with 30 to 50 households and each village has constructed a workshop where all the panels will be kept and these grandmothers will co-ordinate their program from this workshop in their respective villages.
"This initiative is an inspiration to a lot of people as these grandmothers will make a positive change in the lives of the rural communities in Fiji," Mr Sami said.