afrol News, 5 March - Moringa oleifera, also known as the drumstick tree, could be the almost cost free solution to provide millions of Africans with clean water. A simple technique can make its seeds into an effective water purification remedy.
The low-cost water purification technique published in the scientific journal 'Current Protocols in Microbiology' could help "drastically reduce the incidence of waterborne disease in the developing world," according to the authors. The procedure, which uses seeds from the Moringa oleifera tree, was said to produce a 90.00 to 99.99 percent bacterial reduction in previously untreated water.
Only in Africa, hundreds of million of people are relying on untreated surface water sources for their daily water needs. Around one million Africans are thought to die from diseases caught from contaminated water every year, with the majority of these deaths occurring among children under five years of age.
Scientist Michael Lea, a 'Current Protocols' author, and a researcher at Clearinghouse, a Canadian organisation dedicated to investigating and implementing low-cost water purification technologies, believes the drumstick tree could go a long way to providing a solution.
"Moringa oleifera is a vegetable tree which is grown in Africa, Central and South America, the Indian subcontinent, and South East Asia. It could be considered to be one of the world's most useful trees," said Mr Lea. "Not only is it drought resistant, it also yields cooking and lighting oil, soil fertiliser, as well as highly nutritious food in the form of its pods, leaves, seeds and flowers. Perhaps most importantly, its seeds can be used to purify drinking water at virtually no cost."
According to research, drumstick tree seeds, when crushed into powder, "can be used as a water-soluble extract in suspension, resulting in an effective natural clarification agent for highly turbid and untreated pathogenic surface water. As well as improving drinkability, this technique reduces water turbidity (cloudiness) making the result aesthetically as well as microbiologically more acceptable for human consumption."
Despite its live-saving potential, the technique is still not widely known, even in areas where the drumstick tree is routinely cultivated. It is therefore Mr Lea's hope that the publication of this technique in a freely available protocol format, a first, would make it easier to disseminate the procedure to the communities that need it.
"This technique does not represent a total solution to the threat of waterborne disease," concluded Mr Lea. "However, given that the cultivation and use of the Moringa tree can bring benefits in the shape of nutrition and income as well as of far purer water, there is the possibility that thousands of 21st century families could find themselves liberated from what should now be universally seen as 19th century causes of death and disease. This is an amazing prospect, and one in which a huge amount of human potential could be released. This is particularly mind-boggling when you think it might all come down to one incredibly useful tree."
Mr Lea is not the first to call the drumstick tree a "miracle tree". Leaves from the tree are rich in proteins and act as highly healthy nutrients, which can aid populations in poor communities knowing about its use. Leaves can safely be given to mal-nourished children, scientists agree.
Also commercial uses of the drumstick tree have been widely mapped. Its seeds have the full potential of producing bio fuel and cooking oil, while flowers can be used to make tea.
The drumstick tree, Moringa oleifera, can be confused with other trees growing in Africa, which do not have the same qualities. It is more widespread on the Indian subcontinent, but is found in Africa and adapts to most African climates.
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