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Malawi Inventor Lights Up His Whole Village Basically for Free–Starting With a Bicycle and a River

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Colrerd Nkosi

“To invent,” Thomas Edison said, “you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.”

Colrerd Nkosi had all the junk he needed—and the will to bring electricity to his small village in Malawi—and he not only accomplished his goal, but won an award from the Queen of England.

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Using a repurposed corn-shelling machine motor and a fast-moving river, Nkosi created an electric turbine that’s now lighting up homes for him and his neighbors for free in the town of Mzimba.

Just like Edison, he did a lot of experimenting. In the beginning, he put a bicycle in the river and brainstormed about how the current moved the pedals, and how it might be turned into power. Then, he used an old refrigerator compressor that converted power for 6 homes. His neighbors were clamoring, so he continued to upgrade.

According to the self-taught inventor, his latest turbine has the potential to produce enough power to provide electricity to 1,000 homes and says another turbine can be installed downstream to expand the grid. (Watch the video below.)

The hydro power has the added benefit of lessening deforestation by negating the necessity for locals to cut down trees in order to obtain charcoal.

In a country where only 11% of the population has access to electricity, having a reliable and renewable source of energy has been a game-changer—especially in the schools.

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“In the past, we had to study by candlelight and whenever there was no money to buy candles, we could not study,” student Gift Mfune told AFP. “Now that we have access to electricity, many more of us will pass our exams.”

The driving force behind Nkosi’s DIY power initiative (known as the Kasangazi Hydro-Electrical Power Plant) is not profit. Indeed, the only charge for his service is a €1 per month maintenance fee.

Over 2,000 people have benefitted from his sustainable and locally generated electricity, and in 2018, Mr. Nkosi won a Point Of Light Award from Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II for his dedication to innovation.

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In addition to bringing light to his neighbors literally, Nkosi’s dream is to bring enlightenment to them as well—through education.

Nkosi already gives hands-on lessons in the basics of carpentry and engineering to village children, and fervently hopes to expand his own skillset with more advanced studies.

“I wish I could find a sponsor to help me fulfill my plan of going back to school to further my knowledge and pass on what I’ve learned to others,” he said during his AFP interview.

(WATCH the video below…)

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Dr john Masawe

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