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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

Cluster offers workshop about soil health
2009-10-12

The University of the Free State’s (UFS) Strategic Cluster 4 (Technologies for Sustainable Crop Industries in Semi-arid Regions) recently presented a workshop about soil health on the Main Campus in Bloemfontein. According to Prof. Wijnand Swart, Director of the Cluster, this topic currently enjoys high priority within the cluster. The workshop was presented to create awareness amongst all interested parties in agriculture about the important role that soil micro-organisms play in crop industries. Research in the cluster follows a “total system approach” by analysing the biodiversity of specific agronomic systems with the aim to develop so-called bio-indicators for the general health of agro-ecosystems. Dr Jill Clapperton from the University of Leithbridge in Canada and the University of Montana in the USA presented four papers during the workshop. Dr Clapperton is a scientist who has gained a lot of international prominence in the field of soil ecology and environmental health. Qualitative and quantitative responses of bio-diversity in time and space on agricultural practices, such as, amongst others, tilling as opposed to non-tilling, manuring, mulching, irrigation and the application of fertilisers, were some of the topics that were discussed during the workshop. Here are, from the left: Dr Forbes Walker, Institute of Agriculture, University of Tennessee, USA; Dr Neal Eash, Institute of Agriculture, University of Tennessee, USA; Prof. Swart; Mr Richard Fowler, Conservation Agriculture Capacitator, Pietermaritzburg; and Dr Clapperton.
Photo: Lacea Loader

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