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back to article New use found for 'world's most useful tree'

A recipe for using "the world's most useful tree" to purify water is being offered for free download, in the hope that this will help get clean drinking water to billions of poor folk around the world. Moringa tree in Namibia. Credit: Violet Gottrop The Swiss Army knife of the tree world The tree in question is the Moringa …

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Happy

Anything ...

... that can get the gunk out before finer filtering or chlorine tabs can't be too bad at all.

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Pint

Can I ....

Be the first to order 10 of these for the empty field next to my house.

They have got to be the coolest tree on the Planet

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Grenade

@Richard padley1 (And the reply button in still invisible in Opera 10.5)

From your link: "The water itself cannot be too dirty in the first place - if it is too cloudy it might resist the sun’s rays." Which is the condition the Moringa seeds deal with; to wit: "When the solution is added to turbid, dirty water it causes the suspended gunge to rapidly stick together into bigger flecks and so sink rapidly."

Oh and plastic bottles don't grow on trees, you know.

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RE: Unimpressed

I don't see any significant advantage of the UV+Plastic Bottle method over simply boiling the water. In fact, it seems to take longer and be more limited in the quantities that can be produced. In either case using this seed will help to clear out the particulate that neither boiling nor UV will eliminate.

As I was reading the article my thought was that exactly that combination would occur; use the seed to clear the water up, then boil it to kill any organic threats. Once it had been thus treated it could be stored and used as needed.

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WTF?

Yada yada... miracle tree... blah blah

"The leaves of the Moringa are said by some sources to be several times as rich in the relevant desirable vitamins and minerals as orange juice, bananas, carrots and milk."

What I'm really wondering is why some company hasn't already exploited this and sold it to the West as "L@@K all NAtural organic multiVitaminMineral drink!!!11".

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Because..

It probably tastes as appetising as "all NAtural organic multiVitaminMineral drink!!!" sounds. i.e. worse than vomit (your own or someone else's, probably doesn't matter)

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they have!

They have ... look for "moringa scam" on google and you will find them.

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Boffin

ten out of ten for style, but minus several million for good thinking...

So, I'm sitting in my third-world edge-of-existence hovel looking at a tree in the middle of the desert and a bucket of dirty water... and I think, I wonder how I can get that clean?

I know, I'll just log on... doh!

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Coat

Just log on

Obviously it's a third world hovel with a Labour government handing out free laptops instead of fixing the real problems. Just like home, really.

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Coat

Would this...

...count as non-chill filtering?

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Pint

They've (re)discovered the Wompom?

Were Flanders and Swann right after all?

http://www.nyanko.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/fas/bestiary_wompom.html

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Silver badge

Gimme a sheet of plastic ...

... and I can evaporate and then condense fresh, drinkable H2O out of damn near anything ... I know, I know, plastic isn't politically correct to the "green" set ... but ~8-mil Visqueen[tm] is really a good answer in desert climates, if you are thirsty.

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Yes but

Visquene sheeting isn't also highly nutritious.

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Silver badge

True enough ...

But after you eat your tree, my Visqueen[tm] can evaporate the water out of the resulting PrestoLog[tm] (or slurry with similar chemistry) ... I dunno about you, but I'd rather have water for several months than a tree to gnaw on for a day or so.

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Anonymous Coward

@jake: Have you tried this?

While the technique works, the amount of surface area you need to cover for a family's drinking water, let alone its cooking water, let alone its washing water makes the whole thing infeasible even if the desert plays nice and stays in one place.

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Plastic? Umm...

...nor is it naturally occurring, able to provide you with a ready source of solid building materials, a source of nutrition AND filter water.

Agreed, there's times a sheet of plastic is useful - but for a different application entirely! You might have missed the point here but in order to have *filtered* water, one must start with dirty water. In a bucket. To pour that out and evaporate it is slow, very inefficient and time consuming - oh, and it's not that successful when the weather's against you.

Practical test: you take your sheet and I'll take a bucket or a cow’s stomach to collect run-off. Let's see who gets refreshed first - then let's see who can pass the same knowledge on to the rest of the village without needing to call ActionAid back with sheeting every time there's a stiff breeze.

pip pip

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Silver badge

@AC 10:14, yes, I've done it.

I dropped a Piper Cub into The Great Basin in the middle of Nevada. The plane was totaled, but I walked away from it, so as far as I'm concerned it was a landing, not a crash ... It took about ten days for me and the rest of the world to meet back up.

Cooking water and washing water aren't necessary in such a scenario.

People have lived in the same area for thousands of years ... My Visqueen[tm] tarp was an absolute luxury, but I would have survived regardless (I think ...).

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@Ball boy

"Practical test: you take your sheet and I'll take a bucket or a cow’s stomach to collect run-off.

Whole 'nuther kettle of fish. I'm talking evap from brackish (or worse). If you have run-off, in theory you have rain or snow melt ...both of which are luxuries in a survival situation.

"Let's see who gets refreshed first"

You don't seem to understand the full scope of the problem at hand.

"then let's see who can pass the same knowledge on to the rest of the village without needing to call ActionAid back with sheeting every time there's a stiff breeze."

If there is an existing village, by definition they are surviving with what they have.

Toodle pip, old chap.

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Anonymous Coward

dropped a Piper Cub into The Great Basin

Neat. I'd have taken a radio instead of the tarp, but...

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@ jake

Sorry Jake but were talking two very different scenarios here champ...

You walked out of a desert based on collecting the water from your plastic tarp. But you werent trying to live and farm in that desert were you? If you said you crashed and then decided to live in the middle of the desert and start trying to farm a productive living and you survived with your tarp, then we may have a comparison. As you knew you were trying to escape the desert and were moving as fast as possible it doesnt really count. Im also willing to bet you were still diagnosed as being dehydrated by the authorites when you got back to civilisation.

The people that this is aimed at are those who are located in a desert and who are trying to make a living there, they have a source of water - measly and very dirty, and this is a fast and quick solution to remove a large number of the impurities they currently just have to deal with. This technique will work at any time of day and night, during sand storms, etc which a good ol' tarp cant do. So i say good on the researchers for getting this info out there AND doing it for free...

My only question on the topic is does this miracle tree (tm) produce enough seeds to allow for the next seasons plantings as well as the cleaning of water? Anyone know the answer?

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@lglethal

"You walked out of a desert based on collecting the water from your plastic tarp."

No. I didn't. I stayed with the wreckage. I'm not an idiot.

"But you werent trying to live and farm in that desert were you?"

Nope. I was trying to survive & hunt in the desert. I succeeded.

"If you said you crashed"

I didn't crash. I landed. Anything you walk away from is a landing. If you want to know where, eyeball 39.028040 -116.250000 ... A saddle between two hill tops, at roughly 8800 feet (Yes, I know, I was at or near the operational ceiling in the conditions (HOT!), but the FAA found that the recently rebuilt engine had a metallurgical failure in the crank. No fault, and not an "act of god" ... Insurance paid.)

"and then decided to live in the middle of the desert and start trying to farm a productive living and you survived with your tarp, then we may have a comparison."

Maybe. My point stands. Technology and understanding trumps all when it comes to survival.

"As you knew you were trying to escape the desert and were moving as fast as possible it doesnt really count."

Nope. I was moving slowly ... Excess speed produces sweat, which is counter productive in hot, dry air. It's also counter productive in cold, dry air ... I saw both conditions, between night and day.

"Im also willing to bet you were still diagnosed as being dehydrated by the authorites when you got back to civilisation."

I'll take that bet ... I wasn't even admitted to the hospital for a going over. Luck played a large part in my initial survival during the landing, but experience and know how kept me alive and healthy for the following week and a half.

"The people that this is aimed at are those who are located in a desert and who are trying to make a living there, they have a source of water - measly and very dirty, and this is a fast and quick solution to remove a large number of the impurities they currently just have to deal with."

If they have been there for centuries, they already know what they are doing (by definition). If they just got there, for whatever reason, surely it's better to spend the time, money, and effort to relocate them to somewhere more hospitable, than trying to train them to use unfamiliar technology to survive in such a hell-hole?

"This technique will work at any time of day and night, during sand storms, etc which a good ol' tarp cant do."

Uh ... You don't know how to find water in the desert, do you?

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@AC 12:14

"Neat."

How do you figure "neat"? It wasn't the funnest week and a half of my life ...

"I'd have taken a radio instead of the tarp, but.."

My cell phone was out of range, and my radios died in the landing.

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Anonymous Coward

neat

"Neat" in the sense of "that was well done, not everyone would have survived.". A compliment, really.

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And

Visqueen doesn't grow on trees. Yet.

As well as a download, why not print out some copies of the pdf and drop them aerially across affected areas? The paper could also be made from this tree.

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Silver badge

Isn't this the Wompom?

Flanders and Swann mentioned it years ago

http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=81447

(About two pages down, the post from Soundcatcher.)

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I never understood

Why won't somebody just teach these people to boil their water before they drink it?

You can see it regularly on TV - people drink muddy water straight from one end a puddle and their sheep is pissing into the other end. Of course, they're going to get sick!

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doesnt quite work champ

Boiling dirty water doesnt make it clean Vladamir. In fact your likely to make it worse because by boiling you get rid of a portion of the water and so increase the concentration of the impurities.

If all they were worried about is bacteria this might be a solution (although reducing the amount of water you have in a desert isnt exactly the smartest way to continue your survival) but usually the water theyre talking about in these cases is filled with mud, sand, leaves and who knows what else. Effective filters for this sort of stuff are not that readily available in the desert, especially not for those on the income that this solution is aimed at...

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Silver badge

It does

Bacteria is all you need to worry about in these situations. They don't die there from poisoning by inorganic contaminants - they die from diarrhea, cholera and other similar illnesses and you eliminate those by boiling your water. Oh, yes and it tastes better that way too...

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Boiling

They know water can be purified by boiling.

But they don't have the fuel to do it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re:Boiling

"But they don't have the fuel to do it."

Last time I heard, wood burns - and I see a whole tree of it right there in the picture ;)

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Boffin

@Vladimir Plouzhnikov, Re: I never understood

> Why won't somebody just teach these people to boil their water before they drink it?

Boil it? In a desert? Oh right, by burning wood from the tree.

That tree sure looks a lot like a Baobab -- Mother Nature's other miracle tree.

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@Blake St. Claire

They cook their food, so they can easily boil a little water too.

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Shallow comment

It might be useful, but it is definitely ugly.

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Happy

Anybody told NASA?

They spent $trillions (probably) developing their high tech orbiting piss-purifier.

The simplest solutions (no pun) are often the best.

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FAIL

Title

Last I checked, they didn't park the ISS next to a stream, or even a mud hole for that matter...

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El Reg - thanks

I have sent the link and full details of the procedure onto my relatives working as English teachers and doctors in Africa; many thanks for highlighting this - God knows how many lives you may have just saved.

Chris

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That's what everyone is missing right?

Everyone here is right, there are many many ways of purifying water. I have used many myself while traveling. Not for survival mind you, in many parts of the world we consider poor and arid there is plenty of bottled water. No I was doing it because I had the methods and I wanted to see if they worked. Needless to say chlorinated water tastes foul as does iodine and pretty much every form of water filtration that isnt a complete treatment.

But you have hit the nail on the head. Many of these techniques exist, are viable and are being used around the world in the poorest countries. However, any locally sourced and viable alternative is going to be better than shipping millions of pills halfway across the world where most of them get lost.

For the doubters that wonder how people will find out about this, just wait till one family in a village starts using it and never gets ill. Soon enough they will have every mother in town knocking on their door for the secret.

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other uses?

can the oil be processed into biodiesel in enough quantity to power water pumps, electrical generators or cultivation equipment?

the Fremen in me is interested in more than just the water, can't defeat the Sardaukar without mechanized hardware :P

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Anonymous Coward

you forgot one

Appart from saving the third world from starvation and gunky water, horseradish is responsible for saving innumerable fat westerners' lives; an enzyme derived from its roots is used in most immunohistochemical techniques and a lot of biochemical techniques (core to disease diagnosis -including cancer- and biomedical research).

Just saying.

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I hate to say it, but...

If people have no water, they're probably living in the wrong place. If they've got access to water, but it's dirty, they're probably (a) in an overcrowded urban area, with poor sanitation, or (b) in a rural location, where local "farming" has lowered the water table, and what's left is saline. The idea that "people in Africa" only have dirty water is, I think, a myth. I lived in the third world for years as a child. We always boiled our water, but the locals didn't need to; it was clean enough.

In these situations what use, exactly, is a magic seed? It won't help for any of the 3 cases above. And if people did start using these seeds widely, wouldn't that just be the end of the line for the Moringa? Isn't this just another case of well-meaning, but misconceived, Western "aid"?

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Pint

That's great!

All we need now is a way of making Stella Artois drinkable.

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Paris Hilton

@Jake

Remarkable dood!

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