Drought remains one of South Africa’s main challenges, with at least eight provinces requiring regular food relief according to CNN.
Now the situation is set to improve following the development of a new water preservation technology created by a 16-year-old South African student.
Kiara Nirghin, the recent winner of the Google Science Fair’s Community Impact Award for the Middle East and Africa, has created a super-absorbent polymer (SAP), also titled “No More Thirsty Crops,” that can store reserves of water hundreds of times its own weight, according to CNN.
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The project is designed to help farmers in dry parts of South Africa build large water reservoirs for adequate and regular supply of water for irrigation.
“I wanted to minimize the effect that drought has on the community and the main thing it affects is the crops. That was the springboard for the idea,” Nirghin told CNN.
Simple and Sustainable
The young scientist uses recycled and biodegradable waste products such as avocado skins and orange peels to make the polymer sustainable, affordable, and environment-friendly.
“Kiara found an ideal material that won’t hurt the budget in simple orange peel, and through her research, she created a way to turn it into soil-ready water storage with help from the avocado,” Andrea Cohan, program leader of the Google Science Fair, told CNN.
Although the technology is still at the trial and error stage, her research has proved the idea to be workable.
“I found that orange peel has 64 per cent polysaccharide and also the gelling agent pectin, so I saw it as a good option. I used avocado skin due to the oil,” Nirghin said.
To ensure the success of the new technology, Nirghin has been assigned a mentor from Google who will work with her on developing the final polymer, im hopes that it could be tested in the field for commercialization.
The South African teenager says she has many more ideas, including a proposal to discourage poaching by dyeing the skins of endangered animals.
“I might look into health sciences or engineering. Something so I can improve the world,” Nirghin said regarding her future plans.