At age 14, William Kamkwamba was like most children in his native Malawi. The dire conditions of severe drought had left his family to survive on one meal a day. Being unable to afford school, he spent his days in the library, where he one day happened upon a book about windmills.
"I thought, this thing exists in this book, it means someone else managed to build this machine."
Armed with the book, and using bicycle parts, plastic pipes, tractor fans and car batteries from a junkyard and wood from blue gum trees, he taught himself how to make his first windmill.
At age 22, he now has five windmills, the tallest at 37 feet. The windmills generate electricity and pump water in his hometown, north of the capital, Lilongwe. Neighbors regularly trek across the dusty footpaths to his house to charge their cellphones. Others stop by to listen to Malawian reggae music blaring from a radio.
Former Associated Press correspondent Bryan Mealer, who covered Africa, has written a book, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, about Kamkwamba's story.
Kamkwamba is part of a generation of Africans who are not waiting for their governments or aid groups to come to their rescue, according to the author.
"They are seizing opportunities and technology, and finding solutions to their own problems," Mealer said. "One of the keys of his success is ... he's never wanted to rest on his laurels."