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"Malawi Windmill Boy With Big Fans," By Jude Sheerin, BBC Self-taught William Kamkwamba has been feted by climate change campaigners like Al Gore and business leaders the world over. His against-all-odds achievements are all the more remarkable considering he was forced to quit school aged 14 because his family could no longer afford the $80-a-year (£50) fees. When he returned to his parents' small plot of farmland in the central Malawian village of Masitala, his future seemed limited. But this was not another tale of African potential thwarted by poverty. Defence Against Hunger The teenager had a dream of bringing electricity and running water to his village. And he was not prepared to wait for politicians or aid groups to do it for him. The need for action was even greater in 2002 following one of Malawi's worst droughts, which killed thousands of people and left his family on the brink of starvation. Unable to attend school, he kept up his education by using a local library. Fascinated by science, his life changed one day when he picked up a tattered textbook and saw a picture of a windmill. Mr Kamkwamba told the BBC News website: "I was very interested when I saw the windmill could make electricity and pump water. "I thought: 'That could be a defence against hunger. Maybe I should build one for myself'. " When not helping his family farm maize, he plugged away at his prototype, working by the light of a paraffin lamp in the evenings. But his ingenious project met blank looks in his community of about 200 people. "Many, including my mother, thought I was going crazy," he recalls. "They had never seen a windmill before. " Shocks Neighbours were further perplexed at the youngster spending so much time scouring rubbish tips. "People thought I was smoking marijuana," he said. "So I told them I was only making something for juju [magic]. ' Then they said: 'Ah, I see. '" Mr Kamkwamba, who is now 22 years old, knocked together a turbine from spare bicycle parts, a tractor fan blade and an old shock absorber, and fashioned blades from plastic pipes, flattened by being held over a fire. "I got a few electric shocks climbing that [windmill]," says Mr Kamkwamba, ruefully recalling his months of painstaking work. The finished product-a 5-m (16-ft) tall blue-gum-tree wood tower, swaying in the breeze over Masitala-seemed little more than a quixotic tinkerer's folly. But his neighbours' mirth turned to amazement when Mr Kamkwamba scrambled up the windmill and hooked a car light bulb to the turbine. As the blades began to spin in the breeze, the bulb flickered to life and a crowd of astonished onlookers went wild. Soon the whiz kid's 12-watt wonder was pumping power into his family's mud brick compound.