William Kamkwamba, the boy who harnessed the wind

Based on true facts, this is the unbelievable story of a young boy from Malawi, born in 1987, who has decided to save his village and his family from starvation. Without scientific knowledge, his only resources were some books from the library and domestic waste. He would later become a respected engineer and a celebrity for his incredible achievement.

The birth context of a prodigy

William Kamkwamba was just 14 when he constructed a windmill that generated electricity in his remote village called Wimbe, at 32 km east of Kasungu in Malawi. At the time, much of his country was severely affected by drought, and the resulting famine meant that he was eating just one meal a day. In addition, he had to drop out of school because his family could not afford to pay, but he continued his education by reading books from the village library. It was in one of these books that he saw a picture of a simple windmill that could produce electricity, so he started to make one. He said that many people, including his own mother, thought he was a little crazy. His father had a more positive view of the situation, even though he had no idea what his son was planning to do. 

The promising and unexpected achievements

The windmill was built out of materials that had been thrown away: eucalyptus trunk, parts of a bicycle and material recovered from a nearby dump. The blades were made from plastic that he bent into the right shape and put on a five-meter-high tower built from sticks from the local blue gum trees. Naturally, everyone was impressed when he got the windmill working, and the 12 volts were enough to power 4 bulbs and 2 radios. Since then, he has made a taller windmill which can produce solar energy to pump clean drinking water from the ground and, for the first time,  irrigate the whole village. Finally, he also built two other wind turbines, the tallest one measuring twelve meters.

The fabulous destiny of the young engineer

When a journalist wrote a story about him, William became an international celebrity. Thanks to his numerous interventions like his TED talk in 2007, he presented his project based on solar energy to potential donors. He was able to resume his studies in 2008 in the capital Lilongwe. Then, as a result of what he did, he won a scholarship and was invited to study in America where he graduated in 2014 from Dartmouth college. Since, he has been working with the international organization IDEO and as a coordinator for widernet, a company that develops science learning with digital tools. Parallelly, he co-wrote a book with an American writer called The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. More recently, his book was adapted by Netflix and is a huge success, allowing this inspiring story to be known to the general public.

His achievements have changed the area where he lives and we can only admire the way he overcame difficulties to make his dream come true. He has achieved so much with so little while he was still only a teenager. But the most amazing thing about him is that, despite all his success, he is still working hard to improve the lives of people everywhere. For all the curious minds, go see his documentary on Netflix !

Manon Houset

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