Barefoot College, founded by Volans advisory Board member Bunker Roy, is one of the winners of this year’s Blue Planet Prize—which is in its twentieth year. The Prize is offered by the Asahi Glass Foundation, chaired by Tetsuji Tanaka. Two Blue Planet Prizes are awarded to individuals or organizations each year that make outstanding achievements in scientific research and its application, and in so doing help to solve global environmental problems. This is the oldest, biggest and most prestigious prize in the field of environment awarded in Japan. Both recipients will be awarded 50 million yen ($625,000).
Among previous awardees are Lester R. Brown (1994), Maurice Strong (1995), Gus(tave) Speth (2002), Gro Harlem Brundtland ( 2004), Amory Lovins (2007) and Robert Watson, past Chairman of the IPCC.
In its 40 years of grassroots educational programs to eradicate poverty and improve the quality of life of the very poor earning less than $ 1/day, this organization has shown the powerful and simple messages of how the poor can develop themselves with dignity and self-respect as demonstrated by Mahatma Gandhi.
Barefoot College has demonstrated the impact of identifying, respecting and applying traditional knowledge, village skills and practical wisdom on poor rural communities all over the world. The barefoot approach of demystifying technology and decentralising decision making to the community level has reached 30 of the Least Developed Countries around the world.
The innovative idea of training women from the village with little or no literacy skills as solar engineers in the College has brought clean, bright light to thousands of poor communities all over Africa.
With financial support from the Government of India nearly 200 ‘grandmothers’ have been trained as solar engineers in 6 months in India and 12,000 houses electrified, saving several million litres of kerosene from polluting the environment. In the field of providing drinking water to schools and communities the traditional practice of collecting rain water has been demonstrated to be a very cost effective solution.
In 2008, The Guardian recognised the Barefoot College as one of the 50 environmental organisations that could save the planet. In 2010, Time magazine named the Founder Director of the Barefoot College as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.
Well done Bunker and team!