The Barefoot College was set-up in 1972 by ‘Bunker’ Roy in an abandoned turburculosis sanatorium in Rajasthan, India – envisioned as a coming together of educated, motivated, urban professionals, with the uneducated local rural poor, to transfer skills, but not only from the professionals to the poor farmers, but also the other way around.
It aims to utilise and build on local skills to achieve sustainable people-based participatory solutions, rather than trying to impose knowledge from outside local communities, which might result in dependence and exploitation. Wherever possible it works with marginalised farmers and landless peasants, especially women and children. It offers no qualifications, but focuses on practical learning, the dignity of labour and simple collective living.
The college’s five key principles are equality, collective decision making, decentralisation, self-reliance and austerity – the encouragement of simplicity and balanced life.
Key technical skills taught by the college include water and solar engineering, irrigation and agricultural practice and basic medicine, with former students returning empowered to their own communities to make a transforming positive change.
Photo from Barefoot College