At just 16, Kiara Nirghin has won the Google Science Fair’s Community Impact Award for the Middle East and Africa with her project, “No More Thirsty Crops,” a viable solution to the country's ongoing drought.
In one of the most drought-stricken countries of the world, a young South African woman has invented a material to quench the thirst of the country’s suffering crops. At just 16, Kiara Nirghin, a Johannesburg student has won the Google Science Fair’s Community Impact Award for the Middle East and Africa. Many consider her project, which she titled “No More Thirsty Crops,” a viable solution to the country’s ongoing drought.
The teen said she wanted to minimize the drought effects on the community and the main issue of how it affects crops. Her project combines orange peels and avocado skins to create a super-absorbent polymer (SAP) capable of storing reserves of water hundreds of times its own weight, which allows farmers to cheaply maintain their crops. Not just good for crops, it’s also good for the earth—her polymer made from recycled and biodegradable waste products conserve water, making its sustainability more than just noteworthy.
Nirghin chose orange peels and avocado as raw materials after researching SAPs. She found oranges and avocadoes both shared a chain molecule polysaccharide. Orange peel has 64% polysaccharide and also contains the gelling agent, pectin. She chose avocado skin because of its oil.
The young woman identifies Indian agricultural scientist M. S. Swaminathan, as her hero, and according to researchers in the field, her idea could work. She has created a way to turn these materials into soil-ready water storage with help from the avocado.
Nirghin and other winners were awarded $1,000 in educational scholarships and a year-long mentorship from a Google Science Fair partner organization.