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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

Workplace discrimination and unfair practices explored in new book
2017-09-13

 Description: Denine read more Tags: Denine Smit, Labour law, employee relations, bullying, vulnerability, research, Damain Viviers 

Dr Denine Smit
Photo: Supplied

Two law scholars, Dr Denine Smit and Dr Damian Viviers, from the Faculty of Law at the University of the Free State (UFS) recently launched a book titled Vulnerable Employees, which was inspired by their interest in researching, creating awareness and providing a legal exposition in relation to employees who are vulnerable and experience prejudice and dignity violations in the workplace. These include workplace bullying, appearance-based discrimination, those who are gender fluid or have mental-health conditions.
“Dr Viviers, who is also a former student of mine, and I, have been working together for years and share a common understanding in relation to our various topics of interest. We often share the same train of thought. This is how we came to work together to produce this book,” said Dr Smit.


Research focused on employee challenges in the workplace

The book expands on the field of knowledge regarding certain categories of employees who, as a consequence of various mutable, immutable and semi-immutable characteristics, as well as behavioural experiences, are rendered vulnerable in their employment relationships. The book draws on various social, psychological and other empirical considerations, as well as comparative legal research from foreign and international law, in order to expand on the legal position under the South African legal framework governing these conditions. While the book first and foremost constitutes a compendium of research to be used for this purpose, it also serves as a practical guide for all legal practitioners, human resources managers, other labour stakeholders and the judiciary.

Book draws strength in other academic fields
Vulnerable Employees was launched on 28 July 2017 at the UFS library, to an audience of academics and students, with a panel discussion made up of the authors and two other panellists. One of the panellists was Dr Katinka Botha, a leading psychiatrist in the Free State who has a wealth of experience in this field. “Her selection as a panellist was motivated by the various significant inter-disciplinary considerations and intersections between psychology, psychiatry and law, contained in the book,” said Dr Smit. 
“Dr Botha’s expertise was invaluable in shedding light on mental-health considerations during the panel discussion.” 
Mr Lesley Mokgoro, the other panellist, is a leading labour law practitioner, as well as director and head of the Dispute Resolution Practice Group at Phatshoane Henney Attorneys. “His years of experience working with all role players in the employment domain, as well as his extensive legal knowledge and expertise, made him uniquely qualified to serve on the panel and deliver an opinion of the practical and academic value of the book,” said Dr Smit.


Workplace policies key to securing employee rights

There are a number of growing trends in the workplace that could shape the practice of labour law or workplace policies. Dr Smit said the need for employers to regulate workplace culture, particularly in relation to bullying, harassment and unfair discrimination, in line with the South African legal framework, was a fundamental need in all workplaces. Effective workplace policies may be used to clearly outline the relevant “dos and don’ts” to employees, as well as the procedures and processes that may be followed in order to address such conduct. Workplace policies serve to advance legal certainty and efficiency, since the rights and obligations of all role players are clearly demarcated, or should be, in terms of a well-drafted and considered policy. 
The book is one of several publications produced by Dr Smit in collaboration with Dr Viviers on the topic of workplace discrimination and the law. The two scholars are working on another book to be published at the end of 2017.

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