In a modest, but cost effective method that could save millions who survive on unclean water, women in Kirinyaga district Central Kenya have come up with a way of purifying water using Moringa tree seeds, and are now purifying water for others at a fee.
Having long relied on expensive ways of purifying water, like boiling that consumes large amounts of fuel or synthetic water treatment products, the women had been looking for better ways to protect themselves from diseases.
But when one of them visited Sudan, she came home with invaluable lessons on water purification from Sudanese women who have for long relied on the muddy River Nile for their drinking water.
The purification process involves grinding Moringa seeds into a paste, mixing that paste with untreated water, waiting for the paste particles to bind with the impurities and settle to the bottom, and then decanting or siphoning the pure water off the top.
The purified water produces a 90-99 percent bacterial reduction and reduces 'turbidity', making water less cloudy.
The Moringa tree, sometimes referred to as the Indian miracle tree or Mother’s best friend, has long been known to offer amazing health benefits in its own right. Its leaves contain four times the Vitamin A of carrots, four times the calcium in milk, more iron than spinach, seven times as much vitamin C as oranges and three times the potassium in bananas, as well as more protein than either milk and eggs.
But its use as a water purifier amounts to a new bonus again from one of the world’s most extraordinary trees.
The most common water purifiers in the market use aluminium salt, but have been beyond the reach of many households. However, the natural coagulant in Moringa can fully replace aluminium salts, offering a locally produced substitute.
Victoria Kamwenja is one of the women now working spreading the word on the water purification in training sessions.
“When added to water, the crushed seeds attract particles of dirt that are floating in the water, including certain disease organisms. The dirt attaches to the seeds and they fall together to the bottom of the jar. Then you pour off the good water to drink,” said Victoria.
“The dirtier the water the more seeds you will need,” she said
Together the women are now selling the seeds to other households in other areas after offering training at a fee. Susan Kinya and Anastacia Nyawira are selling into four districts surrounding Kirinyaga where the Moringa tree seeds don’t grow.
They are packaging the seeds in quantities of Sh10, Sh20, Sh50 and Sh100. In one day in one district, the two women manage to sell seeds worth Sh5,000 on top of the Sh2,000 that they charge for the training. They hold their demonstrations at rivers, such as the River Chania in Thika District.
“It’s a good enterprise that has been keeping me busy since I retired as a school teacher. I am now planning to be the sole trainer of cheaper ways of purifying water in the whole province,” said Susan Kinya.
“You see Moringa tree seeds are healthy, so when we were told we could use them for purifying water we had no problem because we have heard that our people eat them, unlike synthetic purifiers that are alien to us,” said Mary Wambogo a farmer in Thika District who had the training and is now a supplier of the seeds in the area.
Research by Michael Lea a scientist at Clearinghouse, a Canadian organisation that investigates low cost water purification technologies, concludes that adding crushed Moringa seeds to water can cut the time taken for bacteria and solids to settle from a full day to just one hour, and has potential for preventing diarrhea.
The researcher reports that the seeds can provide a low-cost, accessible purification method for poor communities where diarrhoea caused by water-borne bacteria is the biggest killer of children aged five and under.
He however notes that the seeds "should not be regarded as a panacea for reducing the high incidence of waterborne diseases" and recommends an additional disinfection process. But the seeds can make “a valuable contribution to disease reduction”, he states.
According to the United Nations, more than 1.1 billion people in the developing world could not access clean drinking water in 2010, with the number expected to rise to 2 billion by 2025. The UN has also reported that dirty water causes 80 per cent of diseases in the developing world, claiming 10 million lives annually.
However, experts say Moringa seed water purification should only be used at the household level as it can generate taste and odour problems if it stands for a long time before consumption in large, centralized water systems.
“We need the use of the seeds at household levels where water is purified and consumed right away rather than where it might stay long before being consumed and become unpalatable due to the odour of the seeds if they stay for long,” said Mr Kioko, a lecturer on biochemistry.
The drought-resistant Moringa has been described as the “world’s most useful tree”, for its qualities in producing cooking and lighting oil, soil fertilizer, and highly-nutritious food in the form of its pods, leaves, seeds and flowers. It grows widely in Africa, India, South East Asia and Central and South America - all places that lack sufficient potable water.
Written by Bob Koigi for African Laughter
Newer news items:
- Banana farmers turn fruit to wine, as Hero’s Power - 01/03/2012 12:57
- Artisan dreams a living out of old banana stalks - 01/03/2012 12:38
- Safflower takes as route to food oil market - 01/03/2012 12:37
- Moyale farmers reap from low cost preservation of camel meat - 01/03/2012 12:16
- Sweet potato glut inspires portagurt production - 01/03/2012 12:15
Older news items:
- Popping more than just corn - 01/03/2012 11:17
- Rapeseed plant turns maize farmer into vegetable oil producer - 01/03/2012 11:11
- kari trials super potato - 01/03/2012 10:30
- farmers groups move into nurseries and leaf oils - 01/03/2012 10:28
- new tomato breeds released for outdoors and greenhouses - 01/03/2012 10:17