Our world is getting hotter and hotter. The weather is changing and farmers are struggling to grow food because we have had long periods without rain. Scientists are very worried that soon we will not have enough water to drink. Scientists say that people will be struggling all over the world because of climate change.
South Africa is one of the countries that is going to be badly affected by climate change. In the last few years, we have had long droughts and our farmers have watched their crops die because the rain has stayed away. Rich farmers use chemicals called Super Absorbent Polymers (SAP), which they put into the soil to keep in moisture. But those chemicals are expensive and they are not good for the soil. Many farmers in South Africa can’t afford to buy expensive chemicals that help to keep moisture in the soil and keep the plants alive.
Kiara Nirghin is a schoolgirl from Johannesburg. She was in Grade 11 in 2016, when South Africa was in the middle of the worst drought since 1982. The animals and the crops on the farms were dying. Kiara wanted to find a way to help farmers keep their crops alive when there is very little rain. She wanted to invent something that the farmers could afford.
So she started to do some research and she discovered that orange peels can absorb water and hold water very well. She also found out that avocado peels can mix well with the soil. So she started to do experiments using a new chemical formula with orange peels and avocado skins. She did three experiments over 45 days. For her product, she used orange peels from a fruit juice factory. She discovered that her product helps the soil to hold water in, to keep plants alive. Her product is bio-degradable, which means that it won’t leave poisons in the soil and it is much cheaper than other chemicals, because you only need time and electricity to make it. The scientific name for the type of product is “polymer” because it is made up of lots of molecules that are joined together in a long chain.
Kiara called her project “No more thirsty crops”: and she entered it into the Google Science Fair. This competition is run by Google, the big Internet company, for children between 13 and 18 years old. It is open to children from all over the world. In 2016, Kiara was the winner. She beat Science students from all over the world and won a huge scholarship to study further.
Kiara says that she has loved chemistry since she was just seven years old and started doing experiments with things like vinegar and baking soda in her parents’ kitchen. She is also interested in food science – what happens when different foods are baked together and how heat helps to change the composition of different foods. She wants to study how science can help us to create new foods.
Kiara has plans to study further at university, but whatever she chooses, she will follow a career that helps to make a difference in the world. She says that teenagers who want to be scientists must keep experimenting and trying out new ideas and new ways of solving problems.
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