What you need to know:
- Many Kenyans get their water supply from ponds, rivers, shallow wells, pools and boreholes.
- Most of the time this water is dirty and unfit for human consumption.
- Usually, the chemicals used to purify water are expensive.
Kenya, like many other Africa countries, is water-stressed. Out of a population of over 50 million, 41 per cent of Kenyans rely on unimproved water sources.
Many Kenyans get their water supply from ponds, rivers, shallow wells, pools and boreholes. Most of the time this water is dirty and unfit for human consumption.
But now there is light at the end of the tunnel for the millions of Kenyans who cannot access clean drinking water.
A recent research shows Moringa plant, grown in various areas of Kenya, is a good coagulant, meaning it can be used to clear and purify muddy water.
Usually, to get clean drinking water, utilities use a combination of chemicals which include chlorine (used as a disinfectant) and aluminium and or polymer- a substance or material consisting of very large molecules, as a coagulant, used to clean muddy water.
Unfortunately, these chemicals are expensive. A kilogramme of polymer goes for at least Sh400. They are imported in Kenya and not available to most rural populations.
Aluminium, if used in large quantities, could also be harmful to the environment and could cause serious health effects. But, these are widely used to purify water, with a study done by Japanese sanitation firm LIXIL.
But, Moringa could put an end to this suffering. Most people know the plant for its health benefits, especially in relieving pain and treating common ailments.
HIV positive people
Scientifically known as Moringa oleifera or the drumstick tree in English, it is also rich in proteins, iron and other nutrients which have antiretroviral effect, thus boosting the immunity in HIV positive people. The leaves are also said to increase breast milk in nursing mothers and can be powdered and used to season food. It can be eaten as a vegetable.
And the additional benefits make it the ‘wonder tree’ given that it is not only fast-grow, making it good for dry areas.
Using its powdered seeds, researchers from Burkina Faso were able to purify drinking water in a rural set-up.
They used Moringa powdered seeds on several water samples. The powder trapped dirt molecules in the muddy water, which became clearer after the first 30 minutes.
In their research, they measured other different parameters including pH, temperature, faecal matter as well as industrial and agricultural pollutants. Apart from being a coagulant, the powder is also used as a flocculent (clumps dirt particles together).
Another research, published recently on Science Direct, describes how Moringa seed powder with copper can be used as an antibacterial agent to destroy pathogens like E coli and produce clean drinking water.
The seed powder was mixed with water and copper wire mesh was immersed in it. After about four hours, the water was completely clear and the mud was decanted through a closely woven cotton cloth. It was then tested for turbidity and E coli counts.
“Turbidity level was in the range of three to five NTU (Nephelometric Turbidity Units) and E. coli count was non- detected in all treated samples, which were within the accepted levels for drinking water,” the study found.
The researchers found that the process of coagulation, flocculation and sedimentation was a slow process.
They observed that within one hour, water changed its colour from reddish or pink to milky or white but still a little turbid. But after the first hour, the process of coagulation and sedimentation was faster, leaving clear water at the top. Turbidity was reduced to three units only in four hours before the clear water could be decanted.
“Moringa seeds are excellent coagulants, but they do not have antibacterial property. As such water treated with the seeds is not suitable for drinking without further disinfection,” says the study.