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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

New research informs improved treatment of brain inflammation
2017-10-13

Description: Sebolai and Ogundeji Tags: Microbiologist, Dr Adepemi Ogundeji,  

Dr Adepemi Ogundeji, researcher in the Department of Microbial,
Biochemical and Food Biotechnology at the
University of the Free State,
and Dr Olihile Sebolai,
her study leader from the same department.
Photo: Charl Devenish



Microbiologist Dr Adepemi Ogundeji has uncovered a new use for an old medicine that can potentially save lives and money. Under the guidance of her study leader, Dr Olihile Sebolai, Dr Ogundeji set out to fight a fungal disease caused by Cryptococcus neoformans. Drs Ogundeji and Sebolai are from the University of the Free State Department of Microbial, Biochemical and Food Biotechnology. 

Dr Ogundeji is passionate about education. “My aim will always be to transfer knowledge and skills in the microbiology field,” she said. “Dr Ogundeji’s study is celebrated in that it found a new purpose for existing medicines. An advantage of repositioning old medicines is by-passing clinical trials, which sometimes take 20 years, and the safety of such medicines is already known,” Dr Sebolai, explained.

Cryptococcus infections are difficult to control and often lead to brain inflammation. In layman’s terms: “Your brain is on fire”. People with HIV/Aids are especially vulnerable, surviving only about three months without treatment. Such patients may present with a Cryptococcus-emergent psychosis, and some with an out-of-control inflammatory condition when initiated on ARVs. 

Dr Ogundeji found that the clinically recommended dosage of aspirin (anti-inflammatory medicine), and quetiapine (anti-psychotic medicine) is sufficient to control the infection. Her exceptional work was readily published in some of the foremost journals in her field, namely, Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy and Frontiers in Microbiology

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