In certain parts of Nigeria, like where we are from, there are problems with not having good water. So we came up with the idea of local plants like coconut and costus that have natural water purification capabilities, which means the fibres of the plant can filter the water before you use it. The first time we tried it we were very nervous because we didn’t think it was going to work and the first time it actually didn’t work. Then we tried adding a base to the filtration column so all the water is consumed by it. The purification process was more efficient when the fibres from the coconut were placed between the leaf fibres and the stem fibres of the costus plant. So we changed the filter and put a cup of water through it and it came out very clean.
Who is ordinary Blessing and Iniso?
B: We are from the same village. About 5000 people live there, I think. We concentrate on farming and fishing. We have water and a river nearby. I like to go to school. I want to be a surgeon or work with mass communication. But I lacked the foundation. Where I am from the standard education is not enough. But I would like to be a surgeon.
I: I would like to be an engineer, a civil engineer. In my free time I like to play football and I like to read.
So how did you hear about the SJWP competition?
B: The competition is a very good thing. It’s my first time here in Stockholm so thanks, you have done a lot for me. We got to know about it through Godwin (the president coordinator of the Nigerian National organization). He came to our school to inform us and then we competed in a school competition first, then the regional and then the national competition.
I: We were able to win when we were finalists in the Nigerian national competition.
How did you get the idea for your project?
B: In certain parts of Nigeria like where we are from there are problems with not having good water. So we came up with the idea of these plants that have natural water purification capabilities, which means the fibres of the plant can filter this water before you use it.
What was the most challenging part about the project?
B: The first time we tried it, we were very nervous because we didn’t think it was going to work. And the first time it actually didn’t work. So we had the idea that we can add a base to the filtration column so all the water is consumed by it. So we changed the filter and put a cup of water through it and it came out very clean.
We did most of the work ourselves. It was only with the analysis that we needed help and a mentor. The mentor helped with the analysis of the water before and after the purification.
I: Our mentor was the teacher at school.
Any best moments during the project work?
B: Over in Nigeria there were so many good projects. We were hoping maybe we can win, we just said “ok, let’s hope we win” and if we don’t there is nothing we can do. But then all of a sudden we heard our names and my heart was beating very fast. I was very happy, very exited, it was the best moment I’ve ever had.
I: I was very happy too. Because there were many top schools over there in the competition. We are lucky that we find ourselves as the winners.
How has the Stockholm Junior Water Prize impacted or changed you?
B: Oh it has. For us to travel from Nigeria here is a very big thing, to get to know Sweden. This has a very big impact on my life. It’s very good and I’m happy for that.
I: We are being exposed to a new environment.
B: Life here is very different. I have to say that in any place you find yourself, don’t think to much about what others say. You can achieve your goal anywhere you find yourself. Maybe you don’t feel like you are enough, or maybe you are not like “them”, you don’t feel like you belong, you have to struggle and anyway find yourself. You have to push and you can make it to the top.
The next question is hard, but imagine you could communicate with other young people. What would you want to say?
B: If you have something, if you have made a decision, you have to do something. If you have a destiny, if you have a future, then don’t let anything stop you in anything. Find yourself and make sure you make it to the top, make sure you try your best. Don’t let anything stop you no matter your natural environment or anything. Anyway, find yourself and then you have destination to reach, don’t fall, don’t fall on the way, you have to reach yourself I think.
Interviewees: Iniso Edward and Blessing Omoukpong
Interviewer: Edward Veem
Photographer: Lila Roumeliotou