Habitat Observatory

    SWRC barefoot college Tilonia

The story of the Social Work and Research Centre (SWRC), now known as the Barefoot College, started in 1972 in Tilonia, a quiet village in the Ajmer district of Rajasthan. Tilonia, at that time, was a typical Indian village, steeped in seemingly insurmountable problems, the worst of which were probably apathy and a belief in the helpless, unchanging nature of life. In just two decades, the attitudes have changed and the people have come to rely more upon themselves. Tilonia is no longer just a village. It is a living example of local people using their own skills to meet their own needs and manage their own resources.

Barefoot College
An individual's will to learn and aptitude for learning is more important than any formal degree or paper qualification. This concept of learning is the foundation for the Barefoot College. It is applied in every field at the Centre. The campus itself reflects the adoption of both traditional, as well as new methods and technologies. Old, traditional methods have been used to keep the buildings cool while solar energy is used to provide electrical power the campus.

People with minimum paper qualifications, trained at the Barefoot College, work in every field - as night school teachers, health workers, computer operators, solar engineers, or hand pump mechanics. The College has worked to address basic needs: water, health, education, and employment while enrolling individuals in the processes that govern their lives. It now provides basic services to 100 villages and more than 100,000 people spread over 500 square miles.

Sustainable Development
From the beginning, SWRC has practiced the idea of sustainable development through self-sufficiency. Unlike many government-sponsored projects, the College does not provide free services. A nominal fee is charged for all services, including health services, training, installation of hand pumps or solar electrification for lighting.

The Barefoot College trains and employs unemployed people from the villages to help them become a productive part of the Centre. Almost 98 percent of the workers at SWRC, Tilonia are from the neighboring rural area.

The project was one of the case studies in the Western Region Lok Awaas Yatra. For more details of the yatra kindly log on to:   

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    Lok Awaas Yatra - Western Region January 17 - 21 2010

The first leg of the Lok Awaas Yatra (People’s Habitat Journey) for local governance institutions and implementing agencies at the grassroots level was carried out in Central India covering the regions of Bundelkhand (UP, MP), Marathwada and Vidharbha (Maharashtra) from September 8-12 2009. The Central Region Yatra was well received by the participants - local government functionaries and artisans alike. The Regional Seminar on September 12, 2009 provided a forum for collective articulation of key issues for enhancing the quality of rural habitat in the region by the participants from the three trails.

The second in the series of the Yatras is the Western Region Yatra is proposed from 17 – 21 January 2010 covering Saurashtra and Kutch in Gujarat and Rajasthan. It will conclude with a Regional Seminar at the Centre for Environment Planning and Technology, (CEPT) Ahmedabad on 21 January 2010, where state level stakeholders are expected to discuss regionally applicable good practices and identify key enablers for large-scale replication of good practices.

The key highlights of the Western Region Yatra will be visits to projects related to post-disaster reconstruction using alternate technologies in both Gujarat and Rajasthan. An important feature would be an attempt to integrate traditional indigenous technologies in Kutch and Rajasthan with alternate technologies to arrive at habitat construction solutions that are locally viable, acceptable and sustainable.

The Regional Partners leading the Western Yatra are CEPT, UNNATI and Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) - extremely credible agencies of national and international repute.

The Regional Seminar mentioned above would provide a platform for a dialogue for all stakeholder groups-mainly including government departments, corporate bodies especially those directly involved in construction, Panchayati Raj Institutions, NGOs, artisans and construction workers groups and building professionals.

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