William Kamkwamba 
Bryan Mealer

Planting Trees and Moving Windmills in Malawi

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At my high school we've been learning about "indicators," so I want to share a good one for the problem of deforestation in my native Malawi: by this time next year, my mother will have spent 1,095 hours looking for firewood just so my family can eat.

That's three hours per day spent walking to the nearest blue gum grove, a walk that only gets longer each year. This is in central Malawi, near the city of Kasungu, and my mother is not alone. In most countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, over 90 percent of people are without electricity and use firewood for cooking and heating. In Malawi, that number is even greater.

My grandpa tells me how thick forests once covered our entire country, so dense and dark that a man could lose his sense of time and direction in them. Those forests have now been reduced by more than 80 percent, and the results may spell doom for us all. Malawi loses more than 200 miles of forests each year, most cut down illegally by men without jobs who sell it on the roadside as firewood. The big tobacco estates in Malawi also use the wood to flu-cure the leaves for auction. Even the small-plot tobacco farmers, such as my father, must take trees to build shelters for drying leaves. Because of termites, these shelters never last longer than a season.

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