(CNN)South Africa's worst drought in recorded history has left eight of the country's nine provinces in a state of disaster, with thousands of communities and millions of households facing water shortages.
The agricultural union Agri SA has requested over $1 billion in government subsidies to help farmers through the crisis, but a cut-price solution could soon be available -- from an unlikely source.
Johannesburg schoolgirl Kiara Nirghin, 16, recently won the Google Science Fair's Community Impact Award for the Middle East and Africa with her submission "No More Thirsty Crops."
Using orange peel and avocado skins, the precocious student created a super absorbent polymer (SAP) capable of storing reserves of water hundreds of times its own weight, forming reservoirs that would allow farmers to maintain their crops at minimal cost. The polymer has the added benefit of sustainability as it uses recycled and biodegradable waste products.