Inspiration from The Doers Club
How do-it-yourself design
(1) gave a teenager from Malawi electricity, and
(2) can help transform Africa.
“In 2002, I built my first of several windmills to provide my family with electricity and irrigation. This was in Malawi, where a terrible drought and famine had destroyed our maize crops and killed thousands of people. The famine also forced me to drop out of secondary school because my father could no longer afford my fees. Determined to continue my education, I began visiting a local library, funded by the Americans, where I quickly fell in love with science. As the hunger clawed its way across our country, the library was where I escaped and became lost in discussions of electromagnetism, simple motors and electricity — my favorite topic, since only 2 percent of Malawi enjoyed such a luxury.
I didn’t read English well, so I mainly taught myself these things by studying the pictures and diagrams. By the time I saw my first windmill on the cover of an American textbook called Using Energy, I was able to apply all this previous knowledge and set out to build my own. Within six months, I’d constructed a windmill that provided my family with continuous electricity and completely transformed the way we lived. A later machine allowed us to irrigate a small garden to grow produce year-round. (You can read the whole story in my new book, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, which I wrote with Bryan Mealer.)”