John Drake, AIA enabled Guy Butler Architect to win a 2009 Florida American Institute of Architects Award of Excellence for Africa Windmill Project.
The actual windmill project was built in March 2009 when John Drake, vice president with GBA and Bill Salter, Senior Design Architect with GBA, went to Malawi Africa with two friends to build a windmill in the Village of Mgwayi. The windmill was designed to be built out of locally found materials in a rural village to irrigate crops during the region’s punishing eight month dry season.
The idea for a sustainable windmill for the small farmer was conceived when John was in Malawi, Africa a year and a half ago, and noticed remote farming villages had hand-dug wells, with no means of pumping water. During a drought Malawi does not produce enough food to support its population; 94% of farms rely on the natural three-month rainy season, which only allows one growing season per year. Farmers, with Malawi’s temperate climate and the means to ‘pump’ water for crop irrigation, would have the opportunity to produce crops year round regardless of droughts. Modern irrigation equipment is too expensive for villagers and impossible to maintain, since they do not have tools or training. Most agriculture in Malawi is composed of individual subsistence farmers with small one acre farms.
The design solution evolved over a year and a half of trial and error and is based upon the panemone windmill (500AD Persia) connected to a rope and washer pump. This enables crop irrigation and only utilizes materials that are readily available in Malawi to the common farmer. The windmill is made of a main wood post, bamboo, wire, grain sacks, and two stones for the main bearing; and the pump is made of rope, bottle caps, hand-cut rubber washers (out of used bicycle tubes), and PVC thin walled pipe. The total cost for the windmill if all the parts are bought is $40 US dollars and it could irrigate a minimum of ¼ acre which yields $100-$125 US dollars at harvest, so within the first harvest the rural farmer will be able to make a profit. Sustainable irrigation will stabilize the region of Southern Africa’s food supply which is a matter of Life and Death in Malawi.