Promoting the use of solar energy by empowering women of remote rural communities in Volcans Biosphere Reserve, Rwanda
In February 2014, MAB and its local partner, the ‘Gorilla Organization’, presented solar equipment (i.e. solar panels, batteries, solar lanterns and electronic components) to a village in the Volcans Biosphere Reserve in Rwanda, home to the endangered Mountain Gorillas. The solar equipment will provide improved access to energy and security, and over the coming months will be installed in individual homes by local grandmothers, who were sent to India for six months in 2012 to train as fully qualified solar engineers. The training was provided through a partnership with Barefoot College in Tilonia, India, and was supported by the Government of India.
This community initiative, which combines economic development and conservation, embodies the MAB approach. This project will help to reach out to local communities and engage them in the conservation of nearby protected areas. Providing communities with alternative opportunities also reduces pressure on the natural habitat of the gorillas, of which only 880 remain in the world, as the villagers are less reliant on resources found in the forests of the Volcans Biosphere Reserve. Thanks to the success of this project, the approach will likely be replicated in other areas where energy access remains a challenge.