Kamkwamba and His Windmill

Kamkwamba and His Windmill
06 Jan 2016
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Malawi_William-Kamkwamba1William Kamkwamba was born in August 5, 1987, in a family of relative poverty and relied primarily on farming to survive. His father had been a rough fighting man who changed after discovering the Christian God. A crippling famine forced Kamkwamba to drop out of school, and he was not able to return to school because his family was unable to afford the tuition fee.

In a desperate attempt to retain his education, Kamkwamba began to frequently visit the library. It was at the local library where Kamkwamba discovered his true love for electronics. Before, he had once set up a small business repairing his village’s radios, but his work with the radios had been cheap.

In 2002, Kamkwamba, after some thought about a bicycle dynamo, his fondness for radios, and the wind levels in 3353his home, decided to create a makeshift windmill. He experimented with a small model using a cheap dynamo and, using this experience, eventually made a functioning windmill that powered some electrical appliances in his family’s house. Since then, he has built a solar-powered water pump that supplies the first drinking water in his village and two other windmills (the tallest standing at 39 feet) and is planning two more, including one in Lilongwe, the political capital of Malawi.


Local farmers and journalists investigated the spinning device and Kamkwamba’s fame in international news skyrocketed. A blog about his accomplishments was written on Hacktivate and Kamkwamba took part in the first event celebrating his particular type of ingenuity called Maker Faire Africa, in Ghana in August 2009.

William KamkwambaWhen The Daily Times in Blantyre, the commercial capital, wrote a story on Kamkwamba’s windmills in November 2006, the story circulated through the blogosphere, and TED conference director Emeka Okafor invited Kamkwamba to talk at TEDGlobal 2007 in Arusha, Tanzania as a guest. His speech moved the audience, and several venture capitalists at the conference pledged to help finance his secondary education. His story was covered by Sarah Childress for The Wall Street Journal. He became a student at African Bible College Christian Academy in Lilongwe. He then went on to receive a scholarship to the African Leadership Academy and in 2014 graduated from Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. Among other appearances, Kamkwamba was interviewed on The Daily Show on 7 October 2009 (during which he was playfully compared to the fictional hero Angus MacGyver for his impressive scientific ingenuity) and by social news website Reddit. In addition, he was invited to and attended the 2011 Google Science Fair introductory meeting, where he was a guest speaker.