Malawi village windmill

The boy who harnessed the wind – a review

In our previous blog with tips about books that create that amazing Africa feeling, we promised to write a separate blog about “The boy who harnessed the wind”. This inspiring story gives a special insight into life in Malawi in the village of William Kamkwamba and his family. Highly recommended for those who want to travel around Malawi with us!

The life of William Kamkwamba

William grew up in Wimbe, a poor rural village about 32km east of Kasungu in Malawi. He and his family lived from small-scale agriculture, like many others in this African country.
Malawi has not so much a summer and a winter, but more a wet and a dry season. The farmers are extremely dependent on the rains and everyone in the family helps with the preparations for sowing crops and planting maize. The Kamkwamba family was no different.

The rainy season is quite short from late November to March and every effort is made to achieve the largest possible harvest. People need to eat from this the whole year! For William and many of his friends this meant that they were not allowed to go to school during this time, but had to help their fathers on the land. This often led to frustrations, because William was an intelligent boy who loved to study.

The book Using Energy

William’s favorite book at school

In the year 2001, when William was 14, the rains didn’t come for much longer than usual. The reserves ran out and the school fees could no longer be paid. With the help of people who saw his talents, he could secretly continue to study in the school library. He was particularly interested in generating energy and understood the different processes better than anyone expected from a boy his age. The long drought and harsh reality of famine, made William want to help his desperate community. Although initially laughed at, he persevered. He was called “misala” (crazy) all his life, because he believed in science and not in all the local magic and superstition. He was used to being an outsider. Yet he managed to collect all kinds of materials, including a bicycle, to build a windmill. The water that was pumped out of the borehole changed their local agriculture and improved everyone’s life.

William and his windmill

William and the windmill that he made

The book and the film “The boy who harnessed the wind”

The book that William Kamkwamba co-wrote with Bryan Mealer was made into a movie in 2019. In the book, William talks in such detail about the famine and despair that everyone feels the pain. The film will also bring tears to many.
Fortunately, it is mainly a story about hope, positivity and perseverance. But also a story about Malawi; the poverty, corruption and harshness of life. Faith and religion offer something to hold on to for many, but without hard work you won’t make it. The strength of the Malawians lies in their broad shoulders and even wider smiles. Together you stand strong as a community and the love for your family, eventually conquers everything.


Now that we recently have seen the film again, we recognize many more words in the local language Chichewa, as well as different rituals and traditions. The atmosphere is described so well on every page and in every movie scene, that you can even taste the dust in the air.

Find the film on Netflix or buy the book ”The boy who harnessed the wind” here!

How’s William Kamkwamba doing now?

Various local and soon also international media picked up the special story of William and his windmill. But he only really became famous when he was invited to give a TED Talk in Tanzania in 2007. He touched people with his story and received several donations to pay for further education. Numerous events invited him to be a speaker and in 2013 William was included by Time Magazine in the list of “30 people under 30 changing the world”. He now lives in San Francisco where he helps develop various online teaching programs.

Giving up was never an option for William and he still uses his knowledge to improve the lives of others!

Will you let us know what you think about this story?

The book The boy who harnessed the wind

We love being open and honest, so we’d like to inform you that there are “affiliate links” in this blog. This means that when you buy this book or other articles via those links, you simply pay the best price, while we receive a small commission. Every bit helps us to get through this tourism-free time! You’re welcome to contact us, should you have any questions.

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