Tuesday, August 4, 2009


The Boy Who Harnessed
the Wind

Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope

This is an amazing book that will stand along side
books like THREE CUPS OF TEA. I posted this so
you all could know about this amazing young man
and the good work he is doing.
Please read and enjoy!

William Kamkwamba was born in Malawi, a country where magic ruled and modern science was mystery. It was also a land withered by drought and hunger, and a place where hope and opportunity were hard to find. But William had read about windmills in a book called Using Energy, and he dreamed of building one that would bring electricity and water to his village and change his life and the lives of those around him. His neighbors may have mocked him and called him misala—crazy—but William was determined to show them what a little grit and ingenuity could do.

Enchanted by the workings of electricity as a boy, William had a goal to study science in Malawi's top boarding schools. But in 2002, his country was stricken with a famine that left his family's farm devastated and his parents destitute. Unable to pay the eighty-dollar-a-year tuition for his education, William was forced to drop out and help his family forage for food as thousands across the country starved and died.Yet William refused to let go of his dreams. With nothing more than a fistful of cornmeal in his stomach, a small pile of once-forgotten science textbooks, and an armory of curiosity and determination, he embarked on a daring plan to bring his family a set of luxuries that only two percent of Malawians could afford and what the West considers a necessity—electricity and running water. Using scrap metal, tractor parts, and bicycle halves, William forged a crude yet operable windmill, an unlikely contraption and small miracle that eventually powered four lights, complete with homemade switches and a circuit breaker made from nails and wire. A second machine turned a water pump that could battle the drought and famine that loomed with every season.Soon, news of William's magetsi a mphepo—his "electric wind"—spread beyond the borders of his home, and the boy who was once called crazy became an inspiration to those around the world.Here is the remarkable story about human inventiveness and its power to overcome crippling adversity. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind will inspire anyone who doubts the power of one individual's ability to change his community and better the lives of those around him.


William Kamkwamba was born in Dowa, Malawi, in 1987 and raised in Masitala village along the central plains. One of seven children born to sustenance farmers who grew maize and tobacco, his childhood was often interrupted by drought and hunger.

At age twelve, Kamkwamba became fascinated with electricity—a luxury enjoyed by only 2 percent of Malawi. He taught himself radio repair and began tinkering with bicycle dynamos, hoping to understand the inner workings of generators. During a devastating famine in 2001 –02, William dropped out of high school during his first semester. As thousands died across the country, he continued his education by visiting a small library near his village that was funded by the American government. After seeing windmills on the cover of an 8th-grade science book, he set out to build his own machine using scavenged parts from a scrap yard. His first windmill was made from PVC pipe, a tractor fan, an old bicycle frame, and tree branches, and powered four light bulbs and charge mobile phones. A second windmill pumped water for a family garden.

Local news outlets discovered Kamkwamba in 2007, which led to a stage appearance at the TEDGlobal conference in Arusha, Tanzania. It was the first time he’d ever been on an airplane or seen the Internet. The appearance at TED, and a subsequent front-page feature in the Wall Street Journal, sparked a flood of international support, and soon William returned to school and completed much-needed improvements in his village farm, such as adding drip irrigation to shield his family against future drought. He’s now a student at African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg, South Africa, and recently completed a biography: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope with coauthor Bryan Mealer.

Bryan Mealer is the author of All Things Must Fight to Live: Stories of War and Deliverance in Congo, which chronicled his experience covering the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. A former Associated Press staff correspondent, Mealer’s work has appeared in several magazines, including Harper’s and Esquire.


Earlier this month, US President Barack Obama said Africa must take charge of its own destiny.

At the TED Global conference in Oxford this week, one speech resonated with that message.

The speaker was William Kamkwamba from Malawi.

TED Global (Technology, Entertainment and Design) is the European cousin of an already established top US event dedicated to "ideas worth spreading".

Unlike the eclectic mixture of scientists, technologists and designers gathered at the hi-tech conference, Mr Kamkwamba grew up as a farmer in the East African country.

He came to the conference to tell how people how, at the age of just 14, he had built his own wind generator.

"Before I discovered the wonders of science I was just a simple farmer," he said.

But after the family's maize crop failed in 2001, they could no longer afford to pay for him to go to school.

"It was a future I could not accept," he said.

'Never give up'

So, Mr Kamkwamba would visit a library in his spare time, reading science books.

One in particular taught him that windmills could be used to generate electricity and pump water.

"I decided to build one for myself but I didn't have the materials."

Undeterred, Mr Kamkwamba scoured a local scrap yard, finding the necessary components: a tractor fan, shock absorber, PVC pipes and a bicycle frame.

"Many people, including my mother, thought I was crazy," he admitted.

His first model powered one light. But a later, more powerful version was able to run four bulbs.

"Soon people were turning up at my house to charge their mobile phone," he said.

This was not the first time Mr Kamkwamba, now 19, had spoken at TED; his first encounter with the elite conference was in 2007 at the TED Global conference in Arusha, Tanzania.

"Before that time I had never been away from my home in Malawi. I had never seen an internet," he said.

He said he was so nervous when he had to give his first presentation that he "wanted to vomit".

This year, he said he was feeling better. And he had one message for this year's crowd at TED Global - a message which echoes that of the US president.

"Trust in yourself and believe. Never give up," he told the audience.

Mr Kamkwamba's story has now been turned into a book: The Boy who Harnessed the Wind.

The TED Global conference runs from 21 to 24 July in Oxford, UK.


Anonymous said...

What an inspiring story! Thanks for posting it!

bermudaonion said...

What an amazing young man! A true pioneer. I can't wait to read his story.