Bryan, Diane and I

Q&A With William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer

Oct. 1, 2009

Authors William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer stayed after their interview with Diane to respond to some of your questions that we couldn’t get to on the air.

Q: This story proves that education in the school room setting is not the only answer to African development challenges…I don’t know what this boy was fed as a child, but whatever the combination of exposure, literacy and individual innovation; I wish it could be indentified and cultivated across the continent. (From Barbara)

A: Dear Barbara, I was fed maize each day, cooked in cakes we call “nsima,” plus some mustard greens or whatever vegetables my mother could grow or buy at the market. But I was always curious about how things worked and always asked for information. So when I had to drop out of school, I remained curious as to how I could further my education. This led me to the library.

Q: It’s one thing to build a windmill structure with rather simple tools, but what did he use for the highly technical electrical generating unit itself? (From Jim in Novelty, OH.)

A: Dear Jim, for my generator I used a bicycle that works to power a headlamp on bicycles. These are very popular in Malawi since we have no streetlights in the villages! I always wondered how these worked, and often I would turn the bicycles upside down and spin the pedals and watch the light go on. After finding all of my materials, my best friend Gilbert managed to buy a dynamo for me. I had no money, so he paid a man 200 Kwacha – about $1.50.

Q: This is a wonderful story, which is very meaningful to me since I was a volunteer in the late 80s and worked with farmers like William’s parents. I would like to say “muli bwanji” to William. I would also like to know where in Malawi he lives, and whether his windmill has encouraged others to try the same thing. (From Melitta)

A: Dear Melitta, I am from Kasungu district, Masitala village, in central Malawi. This is just near the Wimbe Trading Center. My neighbor Nyasimaso saw my windmill and attempted to build his own. It looked very nice, but he lacked a generator to produce the power. I was fortunate enough to have a bicycle dynamo, but these are difficult to find.

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