William Kamkwamba biography

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William Kamkwamba

William Kamkwamba

How to pronounce William Kamkwamba: kam-kwarmba (the word means a piece of fabric in Malawi)

William Kamkwamba Biography

William Kamkwamba was born in Dowa, Malawi, in 1987 and raised in Masitala village along the central plains. One of seven children born to sustenance farmers who grew maize and tobacco, his childhood was often interrupted by drought and hunger.

At age twelve, Kamkwamba became fascinated with electricity—a luxury enjoyed by only 2 percent of Malawi. He taught himself radio repair and began tinkering with bicycle dynamos, hoping to understand the inner workings of generators. During a devastating famine in 2001–02, William dropped out of high school during his first semester. As thousands died across the country, he continued his education by visiting a small library near his village that was funded by the American government. After seeing windmills on the cover of an 8th-grade science book, he set out to build his own machine using scavenged parts from a scrap yard. His first windmill was made from PVC pipe, a tractor fan, an old bicycle frame, and tree branches, and powered four light bulbs and charge mobile phones. A second windmill pumped water for a family garden.

Local news outlets discovered Kamkwamba in 2007, which led to a stage appearance at the TEDGlobal conference in Arusha, Tanzania. It was the first time he'd ever been on an airplane or seen the Internet. The appearance at TED, and a subsequent front-page feature in the Wall Street Journal, sparked a flood of international support, and soon William returned to school and completed much-needed improvements in his village farm, such as adding drip irrigation to shield his family against future drought. He's now a student at African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg, South Africa, and has written a biography: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope with coauthor Bryan Mealer.



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Interview

A video in which William Kamkwamba explains how, as a teenager in rural Malawi, he came to build a windmill from scraps to create electricity for his entire community - a story told in The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.

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Books by this Author

Books by William Kamkwamba at BookBrowse
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind jacket
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Readalikes

All the books below are recommended as readalikes for William Kamkwamba but some maybe more relevant to you than others depending on which books by the author you have read and enjoyed. So look for the suggested read-alikes by title linked on the right.
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  • Peggielene Bartels

    Peggielene Bartels

    Peggielene Bartels was born in Ghana in 1953 and moved to Washington, D.C., in her early twenties to work at Ghana's embassy. She became an American citizen in 1997. In 2008, she was chosen to be King of Otuam, a Ghanaian ... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

    Try:
    King Peggy
    by Peggielene Bartels

  • Jane Brox

    Jane Brox

    Jane Brox is the author of Clearing Land: Legacies of the American Farm; Five Thousand Days Like This One, which was a 1999 finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in nonfiction; Here and Nowhere Else, which won ... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

    Try:
    Brilliant
    by Jane Brox

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