Posts Tagged ‘poverty’

High school student develops low-cost water filter

June 14, 2013

Trees for Life has spent over twenty years promoting the use of Moringa tree leaves as a way to reduce malnutrition worldwide. Another use of the Moringa tree is the seeds as a flocculant; the seeds, when crushed, clump together small particles and pollutants in unpottable water. Read about this young scientist who has created a low-cost water filter using Moringa tree seeds as a part of the process of filtering water.

John Roach

John Roach , NBC News
March 6, 2013 at 3:26 PM ET

Meghan Shea w border

Meghan Shea, 18, from West Chester, Penn., holds up a water filter that uses seeds from Moringa oleifera tree that releases a protein that clumps together pollutants, making it easier for charcoal and fabric to capture.

A high-school senior has built a simple water filter using a common tree seed that can effectively remove bacteria such as E. coli and other pollutants. Distributing the easy-to-follow instructions on how to build the filter to developing countries could potentially save lives, she said.

“For people who are currently drinking contaminated water and don’t have access to another (filtration) method, I think this is really a step in the right direction,” Meghan Shea, an 18-year-old student at Unionville High School from West Chester, Penn., told NBC News.

Shea built a prototype of the filter for the Intel Science Talent Search, and was selected as one of 40 finalists convening March 7 through 12 in Washington, D.C. The annual competition identifies some of the nation’s most promising young scientists and innovators.

The finalists were narrowed down from 300 semifinalists and more than 1,700 entrants from around the country. Participants in the 72-year-old competition have gone on to win seven Nobel Prizes and 11 MacArthur Foundation Fellowships, among other honors.

Tree seed filter
Shea was inspired to build her filter after reading about the seeds from the Moringa oleifera tree, which release proteins when immersed in water that cause particles to clump together. The clumps, in turn, are easier for other filters such as charcoal and fabric to capture.

“They sounded like the perfect solution for water purification in areas without access to more sophisticated resources, because the tree happens to grow in a lot of regions where potable water is very scarce,” she said.

But, as she continued to read, she realized water filters based on the seeds had yet to become widely adopted. This was largely because the existing filters based on the seeds were “far too difficult for somebody in an impoverished region to be using.”

Her solution is a filter system made out PVC piping or any other material with interlocking segments, such as widely-available bamboo. Each segment contains a filter element — in her prototype, it’s soil followed by charcoal followed by fabric.

The crushed seeds go in the top segment, which causes the pollutants to form large enough clumps for the other segments to capture, Shea explained. “It is essentially using materials that aren’t normally effective and coupling them with these seeds so they become effective,” she said.

Shea proved the effectiveness of the filter with discolored lake water and water she spiked with E. coli bacteria. It worked.

Give knowledge, not devices
There are highly-engineered filters on the market such as LifeStraw that are 99.99 percent effective at removing all pollutants, Shea acknowledges. She doubts her filter will ever be that good. Still, for people without access to higher-tech devices, she thinks her solution is “a great alternative.”

Shea aims to convince non-profit organizations currently building large-scale filtering devices in communities in need of potable water or distributing individual filters such as LifeStraw to distribute instructions on how to build her filter.

“Instead of bringing new devices,” she said, “they could be bringing knowledge and disseminating knowledge. And if they don’t already have the trees growing, they could be distributing seeds. That would be a lot cheaper than a lot of the devices currently being used.”

Shea herself is headed to college next fall where she aims to continue studying environmental sciences and pushing for her filter design to reach its full potential.

Her focus on environmental sciences is a shift from a childhood fascination with sea horses and determination from age four to pursue a career in marine biology, though Shea said she is keeping an open mind to the myriad possibilities of a career in the sciences.

“I love research,” she said. “So as long as I have a laboratory to work in and problems to solve, I know I’m going to be happy.”

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What one young person can do to spread the word about Moringa

September 21, 2012

Francis O. OlaniyiFrancis O. Olaniyi
ember of National Youth Service Corps

From January of 2012 up till the beginning of June, Trees for Life staff had multiple email exchanges with a young Nigerian named Francis Olaniyi. At that time Francis was half way into a year long project of working on MORINGA sensitization through out Nigeria. It was kicked off in Pil Gani community in Plateau State where there are lots of Moringa trees. His was a year of volunteering through the Nigerian National Youth Service.

Plateau State, Nigeria

Our initial response was to determine in what ways Trees for Life could be helpful to Francis in his plans to spread awareness about this remarkable tree. We learned that Francis was an accounting graduate from Obafemi Awolowo University in South-West Nigeria. “What I love most is touching lives positively, and want to spread the good news of Moringa to as many as possible, educate rural dwellers……curb poverty, reduce malnutrition…..and improve material health. Also, to educate the government, NGOs and others and get them involved in using Moringa to better peoples’ lives with a focus on children, youth and women.” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves!

Francis continues, “Futhermore, I am currently coordinating the MORINGA LOVERS project and working with other volunteers, community heads, farmers, secondary & primary school students and several youth and women’s groups.” These goals are all a part of his one-year time of service!

To assist Francis, a variety of printed materials were sent to him to use in creating his own translations in the Hausa language. He felt this would further encourage more cultivation, use and commercialisation of Moringa in the rural communities. Three weeks after shipping the materials, Francis confirmed their arrival.

In early June of this year, Francis again wrote to us: “At this juncture, let me say it has been nice knowing “trees for life”. As a matter of fact, the people in Langtang North Local government and Plateau State as a whole are much more aware about MORINGA now, especially the need to plant more trees, the need for farmers to cultivate large plantations and the need for the government and the private companies to invest in Moringa. I have facilitated workshops for farmers, who are already making plans to start large cultivations. The media has also helped me in my awareness. Some researchers in the country have shown interest in making more findings on the Moringa to further bring out more facts. I was featured on a national TV program, ‘NTA AM Express’ on Saturday March 23rd to share with the whole nation and the international community how Moringa can address major health challenges in Africa.”

Francis said he has plans, now that he is finished with his National Youth Service Corps year in Plateau State, to move to the southern part of the country, but Moringa awareness continues strongly in his future.

Francis’ story is not quite yet over! In July we were told he would be sending two copies of an educational booklet that he had written entitled: MORINGA Lovers – An Adventure of Corper Zogale (Corps Member Moringa – one who educates others about Moringa).

Moringa Love book cover

Moringa Lovers handbook
Authored by Francis O. Olaniyi

Francis tells how he learned about moringa from his “mum”, ended up in the National Youth Service Corps and detailed his many ideas and experiences during his year with the people in Plateau State, Nigeria. Francis closes his story by challenging the reader that “It is never too late to start maximizing the wonderful endowments of Moringa. Help yourself, help your neighbour, help your environment and help the world at large.”

We are amazed by all that Francis accomplished during his year of service! A true inspiration to others.

The following are photos taken by Francis of his work with Moringa tree planting.

Moringa seeds ready for planting

Moringa seeds ready for planting

Removing Moringa seeds outer shell

Removing the outer shell of Moringa seeds

Nursery after 2 weeks

Moringa seedlings after two weeks

A road path with Moringa trees

A road path with Moringa trees

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