When I lived in Madagascar I met a security guard who had built his own intercom out of old radio parts. He had no formal education, he just worked it out by intuition. I was reminded of him when I read about William Kamkwamba, a Malawian teenager who has built a windmill to provide his village with electricity.
Made from old bicycle parts and standing 12 metres tall, William’s windmill now powers an irrigation system for his family’s fields, as well as lighting. It’s also attracted a lot of attention, making William into something of an internet celebrity. You can read about it on his blog.
I mention it because it’s this kind of innovation that Africa needs, low-cost, small scale technology that makes a big difference – appropriate technology, as E F Schmacher called it. Schumacher founded a group called Practical Action to work on poverty alleviation through simple technology. In fact a Maasai woman called Sharon Looremeta, who works for Practical Action in Kenya, spoke at Live Earth on saturday. Her two minute speech was the most worthwhile thing I heard from the stage all day.