How William Harnessed the Wind

William Kamkwamba built a windmill in Malawi to irrigate his family farm and generate electricity

William Kamkwamba took a photo from a book and built a windmill for his village in Malawi. His TED talk How I Harnessed the Wind tells about his circumstances and his visions for the future.

He began as a farmhand in his father’s maize fields, and in 2001 a famine hit Malawi and William’s family hard. He was forced to drop out of school and to get education and learning he went to libraries. He began to research electricity and found a book about windmills that could pump water and generate electricity. This inspiration looked to be something that could help his family, and the windmill construction began.

Parts were salvaged from scrap yards or from other farmers. PVC pipe, a bicycle frame and tires, bamboo poles and a shock absorber were all used in construction.

At age 14 he completed a windmill that would give irrigation to his family farm and also bring electricity. Soon villagers were lining up at Kamkwamba’s house to charge their mobile phones and word spread of the young man and his undertaking.

William has now given two TED talks, been the subject of documentaries, and has collaborated on a few books. To hear him describe his process is mindblowing – “I went to the library, I read a book about making a windmill. I tried it, and I made it.”