Teenager Builds Wind Power in Malawi: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

Here's an inspiring short documentary about a Malawian teenager who electrified his village with a windmill made from scrounged materials and a whole lot of determination. Guided by nothing more than an elementary school textbook that he got from the local library, William Kamkwamba designed and built his first windpower generator at the age of 14.

He has since built several more, attracted international attention, and been invited to speak at TED Africa. He will also be part of the inaugural class of the African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg, SA. More from Mark Frauenfelder's (of Make and BoingBoing) of William's recent autobiography The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind after the jump. More on do-it-yourself renewables in developing countries here.

"With no hope of getting the funds to go back to school, William continued his education by teaching himself, borrowing books from the small library at the elementary school in his village. One day, when William was 14, he went to the library searching for an English-Chichewa dictionary to find out what the English word “grapes” meant, and came across a fifth-grade science book called Using Energy. Describing this moment in his autobiography, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (co-written with Bryan Mealer), William wrote, “The book has since changed my life.”

Using Energy described how windmills could be used to generate electricity. Only two percent of Malawians have electricity, and the service is notoriously unreliable. William decided an electric windmill was something he wanted to make. Illuminating his house and the other houses in his village would mean that people could read at night after work. A windmill to pump water would mean that they could grow two crops a year rather than one, grow vegetable gardens, and not have to spend two hours a day hauling water. “A windmill meant more than just power,” he wrote, “it was freedom.”

For an educated adult living in a developed nation, designing and building a wind turbine that generates electricity is something to be proud of. For a half-starved, uneducated boy living in a country plagued with drought, famine, poverty, disease, a cruelly corrupt government, crippling superstitions, and low expectations, it’s another thing altogether. It’s nothing short of monumental."

Read the full review.

via BoingBoing.


2 Responses to "Teenager Builds Wind Power in Malawi: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind"

Anonymous said... 18 October 2009 at 12:49

This teenager proves eloquently what one reads today [several weeks later] in Tom Zeller's Green Inc. Column: Local Assaults On The Global Climate Problem: "... driving home that individual actions matter... will be driven from the bottom up"

Ideas guaranteeing & insuring the harvest of multitudes of innovations are those that are first seeded on home ground, in day-care, community neighborhoods,
youth groups, sports teams & elementary school curriculum.. etc.

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