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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

Nobel Laureate for Chemistry to visit UFS
2017-10-28

Description: Prof Levitt read more Tags: Prof Levitt read more

Prof Michael Levitt will be hosted by the UFS from
14 to 16 November 2017, where he will present the
first lecture in the Vice-Chancellor’s
Prestige Lecture Series.
Photo: Supplied

It is a great honour for the University of the Free State (UFS) to host Prof Michael Levitt, recipient of the 2013 Nobel Prize for Chemistry, which he shares with Marti Karplus and Arieh Warshel.

The trio received the Nobel Prize for their development of multiscale models used for complex chemical systems. “Being awarded the Nobel Prize is a unique and marvellous experience that no one can prepare for or could in any way know what to except,” said Prof Levitt during his 2013 Nobel Lecture at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

First lecture in Vice-Chancellor’s lecture series

The South African-born Nobel Laureate and Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) Visiting Scholar will present the first lecture, Birth and Future of Multiscale Modelling of Macromolecules, in the Vice-Chancellors Prestige Lecture Series at the UFS on 14 November 2017. Prof Levitt is well-known for developing approaches which predict macromolecular structures.

He is one of many distinguished academics invited annually by ASSAf to deliver lectures as part of the Distinguished Visiting Scholars’ Programme, presented by ASSAf at universities across the country.

Pioneer in research of molecular dynamics

Prof Levitt is a biophysicist and a professor of Biology at Stanford University. He was one of the earliest researchers to conduct research on molecular dynamics stimulations of DNA and proteins. “My post-prize ambitions are twofold and probably inconsistent: (1) Work single-mindedly as I did in the mid-1970s on hard problems, and (2) Help today’s young scientists gain the recognition and independence which my generation enjoyed,” said Prof Levitt.

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