02 October 2018 | Story UFS | Photo Valentino Ndaba
UFS BRICS-PLUS tackles global challenges
Dr Thulisile Mphambukeli (UFS), Dr Fidelia Dake (University of Ghana), and Dr Victor Okorie (UFS).

Over 70% of the earth is water yet more than two billion people lack access to clean water and sanitation. About 795 million people are food insecure but one third of all food produced in the world, which worth $1.6 billion, is thrown into the dustbin every year. These are the problems, the paradoxes, which seasoned social scientists, engineers and clinicians from universities, research institutions and non-governmental organisations in South Africa, Russia, India, Ghana, Nigeria, and Zimbabwe deliberated at the BRICS-PLUS conference.

The scholars also noted that the grim statistics of water and food-related human suffering, including illnesses, are on not only the increase but overweight and underweight now co-exist in the same household. Dr Victor Okorie, a Postdoctoral Fellow and Dr Thulisile Mphambukeli, a senior lecturer at the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Free State (UFS), along with Prof Lere Amusan of the North-West University, successfully hosted the first BRICS-PLUS Conference themed: Water, Food and Health Nexus in BRICS-PLUS: Problems, Progress and Prospects were the topics discussed.

The delegates collectively identified some drivers of the problematic paradoxes: including accelerated climate change, urbanisation, inequality, inequity, and population growth. Others were a move from family to factory food and limited physical activity, among other unhealthy lifestyles.

Recommendations based on observation

After the delegates deliberated on various issues of water, food and health nexus in BRICS-PLUS, they made the following policy recommendations:
• There should be strong collaboration among critical stakeholders such as the state, civil society and knowledge institutions with respect to reducing the challenges of water, food and health.

• Issues of gender and the youth should be explicitly incorporated into policies guiding water, food and health nexus across BRICS-PLUS.

• The BRICS-Plus research team should be upgraded into a more permanent organisation in order to strengthen how it deals with the challenges at hand.

• There is a need to balance competing uses of water and other natural resources to prevent further pollution and destruction of the commons.

• Investments in research on water, food and health to generate innovations for sustainable development should inform BRICS’ science, technology and innovation agenda.

• There is a need to promote a zero-waste circular economy through recycling in production, preservation, processing, more equitable distribution and consumption processes to reduce ecological footprints across BRICS-PLUS, and generate energy for sustainable economy.

• It’s necessary to encourage technology transfer, capacity-building and policy learning among member-states

• BRICS should encourage favourable terms of trade among member states with respect to water, food and health issues.