Kiara Nirghin

South Africa

Regional Finalist, Africa
Kiara Nirghin's Bio
  • 18 years
  • South Africa
No More Thirsty Crops
Summary of Big Idea: 

I live in Johannesburg, South Africa, which like other nearby countries, is suffering from the worst drought the region has seen in over 45 years. When my family and I were driving to the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal, I was shocked to pass empty reservoirs that had previously always been full of water. This was the first of many times I witnessed the impact of drought on my community, and after further research, I learned about the devastating effects drought had on food and water security. I have developed a unique super-absorbent polymer that holds hundreds of times its weight in water when stored in soil. It is biodegradable, inexpensive and free of harmful chemicals, unlike the manmade materials currently used. The polymer, made entirely from waste products, improves the environment, increases the chance for plants to sustain growth by 84% during a drought and can increase food security by 73% in disaster-struck areas. 


Last year, I was awarded the Grand Prize at the Google Science Fair, featured by both The Times and the Guardian on their top 30 most influential teens lists, and invited by Forbes and TED to speak about my project and innovation that aims to combat drought. Using these platforms, and my role as a Worldwide Fund for Nature Student Ambassador, I actively promote the importance of protecting our environment through innovation. I plan to successfully implement the polymer in my community and explore other solutions for agriculture worldwide. I have also developed a way to apply the polymer to water filtration and tackle the issue of clean water supply around the world.