The little farmer who saved his family from starvation with a homemade mill

William Kamkwamba built a machine that changed his life and that of his family, he was only 14 years old. Before becoming famous, she had never been far from home in Malawi. I had never used a personal computer, tablet or smartphone. I had never seen or used the Internet. Now he even has his own biography.

He has seven sisters. Before discovering the wonders of science, I was a farmer in a poor peasant country. Like almost everyone in his community, his family grows corn. But one year, luck turned its back on them. In 2001, they experienced a terrible famine. For 5 long months, everyone in Malawi started to starve. At home, they only ate three bites of corn a day, at night.

Mill William Kamkwamba

In Malawi, secondary education is not free, so due to famine he had to drop out of school. But he was happy to have reached secondary education. But didn’t give up, went to the library, read science books, especially physics. I didn’t understand English very well, so he looked at the diagrams and photos to better understand the texts.

The little farmer who saved his family from starvation with a homemade mill

One day he received a book that changed his life and that of his family, “ Using Energy ”, a book that taught him how to build a windmill to pump water and generate electricity. He quickly saw the great possibilities, pumping water meant irrigation, and irrigation meant food and money for his family. So he didn’t think twice and decided to build his own windmill. But he didn’t have the materials to build it. So he went to the nearest landfill and got everything he needed.

In your community, even your own family, they thought i was crazy. Then they all wanted to help him when they saw that his ingenuity had a real use in their life.

William Kamkwamba riding his windmill

He found a tractor fan, a shock absorber, PVC pipes. He used tree trunks, a bicycle frame and a dynamo to build his mill, used everything he had at hand. At first you could turn on a light with your mind. Then four, with switches and even an automatic switch, very similar to commercial switches.

William Kamkwamba2

He was finally able to fine-tune the system and power the machine that pumps water for irrigation.

William Kamkwamba

His first mill was 5 meters high, then he built a 12 meter mill.

William Kamkwamba Journal

People line up at home to charge their phones :). Then came the reporters, the blogs and then they called him from TED. He had never seen a plane in his life. I had never slept in a hotel. He had his dream. Here is his speech:


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Kamkwamba attended the Africa Leadership Academy, a Pan-African preparatory school in Johannesburg, South Africa. He lectures all over the world and is one of the bloggers most important in Africa.