Windmill Revolution

William Kamkwamba

Photo: William Kamkwamba


William Kamkwamba grew up as a member of a poor farming family, growing maize, in Malawi. In 2001, just as he entered his teens, crop failures set off a devastating famine, and his family ate only one meal a day.

The hunger forced him to drop out of school in 2002.

Kamkwamba mulled what to do. “It was a future I couldn’t accept. I intended to do anything possible to get an education.” He went to a local library and began to read books, particularly ones about physics. And one of the books explained how windmills could be used to generate electricity and pump water.

He was just 14 but decided to build a windmill himself. However, he lacked the materials. At the local junk yard, he found a tractor fan, a shock absorber, a bicycle frame and some PVC pipe. He melted the pipe to create blades for the windmill. His first windmill powered only one light, but building on that success, he build another larger windmill that powered four lights.

Kamkwamba was on to something. He built another windmill to pump water for irrigation, and soon people were queuing up at his family’s house to charge their mobile phones.

Local journalists found out about this windmill, and soon an international blogger wrote about him. Before long he was invited to speak at a TED conference in the United States. And his worl changed.
His efforts to harness the wind are changing the lives of people in Malawi and the message is going around the world, including in a book:

“THE BOY WHO HARNESSED THE WIND is the inspiring story of a young man in Africa who used the only resources available to him to build a windmill and elevate the lives and spirits of those in his community. William Kamkwamba’s achievements with wind energy should serve as a model of what one person, with an inspired idea, can do to tackle the crisis we face. His book tells a moving and exciting story.” Al Gore, former Vice President and Nobel Laureate

William Kamkwamba’s website

Moving Windmills: The William Kamkwamba Story

Sources: William Kamkwamba’s website, Guardian