Kiara Nirghin, a South African teenage girl and recent winner of the Google Science Fair’s Community Impact Award for the Middle East and Africa, is pioneering a new technology to fight drought. The Holy Web, her super-absorbent polymer, can store reserves of water hundreds of times its own weight.
Drought remains one of South Africa’s main challenges, with at least eight provinces requiring regular food relief. The project is designed to help farmers in dry areas build large water reservoirs for an 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,” says Nirghin. Her invention uses recycled and biodegradable waste products such as avocado skins and orange peels to make the polymer sustainable, affordable and environmentally friendly.