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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

Two UFS architecture students won prestigious PG Bison 1.618 Competition
2017-10-26

 Description: Bison read more Tags: : Stephan Diedericks, Department of Architecture, Margaux Loubser, Kobus du Preez, Zack Wessels, PG Bison 1.168 Competition 

At the PG Bison 1.618 competition awards ceremony
in Rosebank, were from the left:
Camrin Plaatjes from the University of KwaZulu-Natal;
Stephan Diedericks, winner of the competition;
and Margaux Loubser,
the second-place winner. Both Stephan and
Margaux are studying Architecture at the UFS.
Photo: Supplied



Food that reaches its sell-by date in supermarkets is usually disposed of, but has not yet reached its best-before date.  What happens to this food?  According to Stephan Diedericks, the answer to this is for this food to be repurposed.

Not only does Stephan want to prevent the waste of food – in a world where food security is a challenge – but he also won the prestigious PG Bison 1.618 Competition with his entry in which he suggests that gourmet meals be prepared from food that has reached its sell-by date, and then be served in the Delta Recycletorium. 

Students introduced to park lands in urban areas
Diedericks is a student in the Department of Architecture at the University of the Free State (UFS). Second-place winner in this competition was Margaux Loubser, also a UFS student. Another UFS student, Dehan Kassimatis, was a finalist. They received their awards at a ceremony in Rosebank, Johannesburg, earlier this month. 

The competition, now in its 24th year, was created to recognise the future interior and industrial designers, architects, and key decision-makers in the South African construction industry. It is known not only for the prestige it offers its winners, but also for the tradition-defying brief given to the students each year.

According to lecturers Kobus du Preez and Zak Wessels, in the Department of Architecture, the competition introduced the students to parklands in urban areas. He quotes the competition brief: “Rural to urban migration with the development of commercial and residential property elevates the importance of parklands within cities, in creating a refuge from the hustle of daily life.  These areas are leveraged to encourage healthier living, community interaction and environmental awareness.”

Learning experience more important than prizes
The site that was the focus of the competition is the Environmental Centre, Delta Park Heritage Precinct in Johannesburg. Students needed to transform this old building into a vibrant gastronomic restaurant. “The theme and style of the restaurant was for the student to choose,” said Du Preez. 

Loubser called her restaurant Rooted – a wholefood restaurant.  She was influenced by the geometries of the original Art Deco building. Rooted articulates and integrates the space between nature and the building.  Similar to an Art Deco painting or poster, the landscape is abstracted into terraces which are used to grow vegetables organically.  Vertical green screens soften the divide between the building and its surroundings and it provides shade.

“Our students took their clues from the existing environment and integrated it with a single idea, an abstract concept, which impressed the judges,” Du Preez said. 

Although this is a competition that is well reported in the industry press, Du Preez and Wessels agree that the learning experience for students is much more important than winning the contest. The competition’s brief aligned well with the Department of Architecture’s learning content with its urban focus.

Jacques Steyn, a UFS architecture student, came third in the competition in 2015.

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