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20 July 2018 Photo Leonie Bolleurs
Research informs about sustainable use of fresh water for food production
Conducting research on the topic of water-footprint assessment, are from the left: Dr Enoch Owusu-Sekyere, Dr Henry Jordaan, study leader and Senior Lecturer in the UFS Department of Agricultural Economics, Dr Frikkie Maré (Head of the Department of Agricultural Economics), and Adetoso Adetoro.

The fact that South Africa is a water-scarce country has been highlighted during the past couple of years, and even city dwellers were suddenly very aware of the drought due to the strict water restrictions. These are the words of Dr Frikkie Maré, Head of the Department of Agricultural Economics at the University of the Free State (UFS) and one of the graduates who received his PhD on water-footprint assessment studies at the recent June 2018 graduations.

The department is currently involved in various water-footprint and water-management research projects which assist in providing solutions for better water management in the future. “As department, we want to be at the forefront of research that will assist all agricultural producers with sustainable production practices to ensure economic, environmental, and social sustainable food and fibre products for the society at large,” said Dr Maré.

Research funded by Water Research Commission

The UFS recently conferred two PhD degrees (Drs Enoch Owusu-Sekyere and Frikkie Maré) and one master’s degree (Adetoso Adetoro) in the Department of Agricultural Economics. All three have been working in the field of water-footprint assessment. The research formed part of two different projects that were initiated and funded by the Water Research Commission.

According to Dr Henry Jordaan, Senior Lecturer in this department, four of his students already received their master’s degrees on the topic of water-footprint assessment, while two students are busy with PhDs and three more are working on their master’s degrees.

Topic gains momentum in research community
The water-footprint concept serves as a useful indicator to sensitise society about the impact of the food we eat on scarce freshwater resources – from agricultural producers using water to produce primary food crops and products on the farm, to the end consumer buying the food products in the retail store in town.

“Water-footprint assessment is a relatively new field aimed at informing the sustainable use of fresh water for food production. This topic is gaining momentum in the research community, given the substantial increase in the global population in the context of freshwater resources that is getting increasingly scarce. The challenge is to feed the growing population while still using the scarce freshwater resources sustainably.

Volume of water used to produce food

“In order to inform water users on how to use the resource sustainably, it is important to know the volume of water that was used to produce the required food products. Through our research, we are contributing to this knowledge by assessing the volume of water that was used to produce selected products, and to interpret the water use in the context of water availability to gain insight into the degree of sustainability with which the resource is used. The results are expected to inform water users, water managers, and policy makers regarding the sustainable use of fresh water for food production,” said Dr Jordaan.

News Archive

Early diagnosis of hearing loss is important
2017-09-11

  Description: Magteld small Tags: birth defects, hearing loss, Dr Magteld Smith, Department of Otorhinolaryngology

Dr Magteld Smith, lecturer in the
Department of Otorhinolaryngology
at the University of the Free State (UFS)
Photo: Supplied


One of the most common, misunderstood and neglected birth defects in developing countries is hearing loss, which can most severely impair and have a dramatic impact of the quality of life the of the person with hearing loss. 

This is according to Dr Magteld Smith, lecturer in the Department of Otorhinolaryngology at the University of the Free State (UFS). 

“Hearing loss refers to all the different types and levels of hearing loss, from slight to profound hearing loss,” she said. 

Derived from a number of retrospective studies in South Africa, it was found 17 people a day are born with hearing loss. More than 95% of those children are born to hearing parents. This estimate excludes children and adults who lost their hearing after birth. 

According to Dr Smith, hearing loss strikes at the very essence of being human, because it hinders communication with others. To enable people to communicate with those with hearing loss, the university’s Department of South African Sign Language teaches students sign language. This year, the department enrolled 230 students. A number of these students are from the Faculty of Education. These students could from 2017 for the first time choose sign language as a subject.

“Studies have shown that important language skills are learned before the age of three because hearing and learning language are closely tied together. Brain development of the auditory pathways and language cortex is occurring in young children as they respond to auditory and visual language. In families that are part of deaf culture, these parents automatically sign from day one, so the baby is learning visual (sign) language, and the appropriate brain development is occurring.

Beskrywing: Doof readmore Sleutelwoorde: geboorte-afwykings, gehoorverlies, dr Magteld Smith, Departement Otorinolaringologie

About 230 students are enrolled for the subject, South African 
Sign Language, at the UFS. As an assignment some of the students 
were asked to design posters to create deaf awareness among 
others on campus. From the left are: Poleliso Mpahane, 
Masajin Koalepe, Ntshitsa Mosase, and Zoleka Ncamane. 
Photo: Leonie Bolleurs

“However, if a child has an undiagnosed hearing loss and the parents are unaware, the child will not receive the needed language stimulation — and the hoped-for development won’t take place. It is critical to understand that children with hearing loss have their own talents, different levels of intelligence, socioeconomic circumstances and different abilities, just like hearing children. Therefore, one size does not fit all,” Dr Smith said. 

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