An ancient technique for purifying water may offer new hope for the over 1 billion people who have no access to clean drinking water. The Moringa oleifera tree has been used for hundreds of years by people in Sudan to purify water, as well as for food. The method has never been widely disseminated, but in 2010 a publication by Michael Lea revealed the Moringa tree’s properties. According to Lea, when the seeds of this tree are crushed into powder and mixed with surface water, a reduction of bacteria by 90-99 percent can be achieved.
This news provides great hope for those living in areas where the tree is widely grown, including Africa, Central and South America, India, and Southeast Asia. In Ghana, the Moringa tree is grown on plantations, and its leaves are used for food and the seeds used as a spice. According to the UN site IRIN, the tree grows quickly and resists drought, and can be grown in many areas. The seeds are soft and can be easily crushed, the IRIN site further states. The fact that the tree is already widely grown, and the ease with which the seeds can be crushed, make this method ideal for those without other sources of water purification.
Kebreab Ghebremichael, a water purification expert with UNESCO, states that using the seeds of Moringa tree is probably best employed at a household level. According to him, the seeds would pose problems with odor and taste if forced to sit for extended periods of time when used on a large scale basis. He further states that this method would work better for surface water than with underground water, and that it is best used for emergencies and where other methods of water purification are not available.