By Duncan Mlanjira
Malawi’s agricultural scientific genius, William Kamkwamba, otherwise known throughout the world as ‘The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind’, will be the keynote speaker at Malawi’s annual Agricultural Transformation Initiative (ATI) summit scheduled for November 13-14 at Bingu Conference Centre in Lilongwe.
According to ATI Country Director, Dr. Candida Nankhumwa, this year’s summit will once again bring together key stakeholders from across the agriculture sector to discuss opportunities for economic diversification in Malawi.
“Participants will address the Summit’s theme, ‘The Role of Inclusive Science, Technology, and Innovation in Driving Agricultural Transformation’ and will also exchange ideas to help smallholder tobacco farmers transition to alternative livelihoods,” says the statement from ATI.
“This year, the summit will once again be hosted by renowned journalist Femi Oke.
“However this time, best-selling Malawian author William Kamkwamba will be in attendance to give the keynote speech and act as guest judge at the Centre for Agriculture Transformation’s AgTech Challenge Science Fair.
“The Agricultural Technical (AgTech) Challenge Science Fair, hosted by the Centre for Agriculture Transformation (CAT), will showcase primary, secondary and tertiary students who will present their innovations to address challenges faced by Malawian groundnut farmers.
“An expert judge panel will review and select the winning intervention that has the highest chance of commercialization.
“William Kamkwamba, who is also an inventor and farmer, has been mentoring the students and will act as a guest judge.”
The statement said dignitaries to be present include Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, Kondwani Nankhumwa; president for Foundation for a Smoke-Free World Derek Yach; vice-president for agriculture and livelihoods, Jim Lutzweiler; ATI country director Dr. Nankhumwa and Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources Vice Chancellor Prof. George Kanyama Phiri.
According to ATI Country Director, Dr. Nankhumwa, the ATI is preparing for a future of reduced tobacco demand by working with smallholder tobacco farmers to facilitate the development of complementary structured value chains with the goal of making Malawi’s agriculture sector globally competitive.
“To achieve its mission, the ATI is partnering with the private sector, smallholder farmer organizations, government and financial stakeholders to catalyze investment, develop and strengthen extension services, and promote entrepreneurship to support tobacco farmers in their efforts to transition to alternative crops and livelihoods.
“The ATI’s first Agricultural Transformation Summit took place December 4-5, 2018 [that attracted] over 150 participants in attendance from the farming sector, including smallholder farmers and tobacco leaf companies, as well as the private sector, government, banks, investment advisors, and universities,” says Dr. Nankhumwa.
Kamkwamba became famous after his innovation for his village in which he managed to irrigate his community using a wind generated innovation he made using a bicycle generating system.
After he gained worldwide recognition for his invention, American film producer, Chiwetel Ejiofor made a move on him entitled ‘The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, which tells the story of Kamkwamba as a 13-year-old school dropout, who studied on his own by tinkering with batteries and broken radios to create a windmill to irrigate his drought affected community.