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de-FLuoridation technologies for imprOving quality of WatEr and agRo-animal products along the East African Rift Valley in the context of aDaptation to climate change.

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - FLOWERED (de-FLuoridation technologies for imprOving quality of WatEr and agRo-animal products along the East African Rift Valley in the context of aDaptation to climate change.)

Reporting period: 2017-12-01 to 2019-11-30

Geogenic contamination of Fluoride (F) in groundwater above the WHO limit of 1.5 mg/L is a concern that affects about 260 M people worldwide. The East African Rift Valley region is characterized by high availability of F in surface water and groundwater (Ethiopia 1.3–300 mg/L; Kenya up to 180 mg/L; Tanzania up to 70 mg/L). The health effect of F on human being ranges from mild dental fluorosis to crippling skeletal fluorosis as the level and period of exposure increase. FLOWERED objective was to contribute to the development of a sustainable water management system in areas affected by F contamination in water, soils and food in the African Rift Valley countries (Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania) to improve living standards of its population. FLOWERED, thought the research activities, developed and tested different methodological approaches, successfully replicable in other areas, reaching significant and operative results. So, FLOWERED, focusing on innovative technologies and practices and considering local experiences, implemented integrated water and agriculture management system and enabled local communities to manage water resources. Moreover, FLOWERED tested and implemented innovative defluoridation technologies for drinking water that will mainly operate at the small village scale. The integrated approaches improve knowledge for EU partners, local researchers, farmers, and decision-makers. For the proposal of sustainable and suitable strategies for water sanitation and agricultural system, the project, through the involvement of SMEs, has strengthened the development of co-innovative demonstration processes as well as new market opportunities.
A multidisciplinary research effort, including geological, hydrogeological, hydro-chemical, geophysical, and hydrological investigations, has aimed at locating a source of safe groundwater for the study areas: a prerequisite for the implementation of sustainable water management. A critical review of existing data to propose a regional circulation model of high-fluoride waters along the African Rift Valley was completed. The Flowered Database has been designed and populated, for the three target areas, with collected geo-data. The three dimensional geological and hydrogeological conceptual model has been realized for the target areas, and field sampling campaigns of waters, rocks, and soils have been designed and carried out accordingly. Geological, hydrogeological, and geochemical evidence have been integrated to identify various factors controlling fluoride mobility and concentration. The F geochemical background has been proposed. An original methodology for F determination in plant tissues was developed, based on the microwave assisted wet digestion of samples with hydrogen peroxide at high temperature and pressure. Compared to the alkali fusion, i.e. the most frequent method found in the literature, this method needs less time and lab safety requirements to analyze each sample. For the microwave assisted acid digestion conventional technique with concentrated HNO3, the identified method has the advantage to avoid the loss of analyte due to the presence of nitrous fumes allowing moreover to obtain digests with low residual acidity in agreement with green chemistry principles. Dental fluorosis surveys were conducted in Kenya and Tanzania. Animal tissue samples were collected and analyzed for F concentration to improve the understanding of the risks of F transfer into the human food chain by investigating the accumulation of F in animal products of both managed and wild animals. A new defluoridation method based on the use of the Octacalcium Phosphate (OCP) has been tested on a pre-industrial scale, and the OCP production is ready for the scale-up. This new material can remove fluoride starting from 30 mg/L to below WHO limits of F in drinking water (1.5 mg /L). A corresponding patent was registered and posed the basis for potential commercial use of OCP. A new prototype Flowered Defluoridator Device (FDD), has been designed, fully tested, and capable of removing F from water using the OCP reagent. Based on the architecture of the existing system SHARE-GeoNetwork, a web platform for data sharing, the FLOWERED-SHAREGeoNetwork has been developed. PESTEL (Political, Economic, Socio-Cultural, Technological, Environmental, and Legal aspects) and SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analyses were developed to assess the potential impact of external factors upon the proposed water defluoridation technologies. SWOT and PEST analysis were carried out using country-specific context information aiming at the description of the political, economic, socio‐cultural, technological, and legal contexts, both general and water‐specific, for the project target countries. This knowledge has already been and will be further exploited through the publication of open access articles in high Impact Factor International Journal and presented to international conferences.
The FLOWERED project combined integrative science-based procedures with stakeholder knowledge and went beyond the linear transfer of technology approaches. The integrated methods planned and developed in this project have produced a new set of knowledge data available for EU partners, local researchers, farmers, decision-makers, which will allow tackling F contamination efficiently at different scales.
The main project's outputs consist of: identification and mapping the specific geological-hydrogeological-geochemical conditions of water contamination also with different land uses; development of mitigation options for fluoride contamination in agricultural and livestock systems; identification and testing of innovative water defluoridation technologies; development of an innovative Geo-Data system with a web platform for data sharing and a mobile application for the collection of data.
The results of the project promote the creation of market opportunities for European water innovations outside Europe with a specific action carried out by SMEs to assess possible market opportunities for the innovative technologies implemented. It is expected that the PESTEL and SWOT analyses will have a significant impact on the implementation and commercialization of FLOWERED defluoridation technologies. Moreover, by sharing knowledge results and involving young research, women, and a large number of local actors within scale strategies, training activities, and participatory learning events, FLOWERED has ensured a better preparation of African partners to address water, agriculture, and climate change vulnerabilities. The project results and this widespread new knowledge promote a crucial impact on policymaking and legal framework development in the target countries. Socio-economic benefits from the effects of the commercialization of FLOWERED run-off technologies, the results of PESTEL and SWOT analyses, and stakeholder feedback will serve in the future to make adjustments to FLOWERED run-off technologies, especially if other funding resources are available. The key to ensuring the sustainability of FLOWERED's action has been to organize the innovation process from a participatory perspective and to address the enabling and limiting factors at the institutional level. The potential long-term effects aim at improving the quality of life of the final beneficiaries by reducing exposure to contaminated water.
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