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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

School of Medicine not closing
2009-10-22

There is no immediate threat that the University of the Free State’s (UFS) School of Medicine will be closing.

This was confirmed by Prof. Gert van Zyl, Head of the UFS’s School of Medicine and acting Dean of the Faculty of Health Science, following media reports that Prof. Andries Stulting has indicated in a meeting with other medical schools and parliamentary standing committee members that the School will have to close due to the serious problems in the health sector.

“This discussion should be seen in context. Prof. Stulting, in his capacity as acting Head of the School of Medicine, and on behalf of the School and the Faculty, sent a proactive warning to the Free State Health Department, the Member of the Executive Committee and the Premier of the Free State regarding the long-term consequences of the health crisis. This statement was not interpreted correctly. Everything that Prof. Stulting said has already been included in the position statement that the School released in May 2009. What is urgent, though, is that the problems that were identified at especially Pelonomi Hospital in May this year were still not addressed,” said Prof. Van Zyl.

According to Prof. Van Zyl, problems at Pelonomi Hospital include not enough beds, lack of funding for the health sector in the Free State and in some instances problems with filling vacant positions.

“Some of these problems have already been addressed by the Free State Department of Health. Our training platform includes not only Pelonomi Hospital, but also Universitas Hospital, National Hospital, the Free State Psychiatric Complex and several clinics in the Bloemfontein area. This means that there are other facilities available that function in order to provide appropriate training to undergraduate students. Therefore, training is not in immediate danger and the School will definitely not be closing,” he said.

“New first-year students will start their studies in 2010 and I can assure you that there will be adequate training opportunities to take in and train students. However, we do struggle with a bigger intake as requested by Government. I want to put Prof. Stulting’s remark in context: He referred to postgraduate students and therefore the specialists who are in training,” said Prof. Van Zyl.

According to Prof. Van Zyl the specialists in training is a problem that was discussed with the Free State Health Department – with specific reference to less time in operating theatres and the number of beds at Pelonomi Hospital. “We are of the opinion that, should the Department address this problem as a matter of urgency, there will be no long-term damage to the training of these specialists in training. These are the students that Prof. Stulting was referring to,” he said.

The School received more than 1 500 applications for undergraduate studies in 2010 – all of these applications met the minimum selection requirements for the 140 available places. “Our current undergraduate students are therefore not influenced and they will continue to receive the quality training for which the School is renowned,” he said.

Prof. Jonathan Jansen, Rector and Vice-chancellor of the UFS, is aware of this and he satisfied himself as to the situation when he visited the hospitals in Bloemfontein on Friday, 9 October 2009. The national Minister of Higher Education and Training, Dr Blade Nzimande, was also informed of the School’s concerns when he visited the UFS in September 2009.

Media Release
Issued by: Lacea Loader
Deputy Director: Media Liaison
Tel: 051 401 2584
Cell: 083 645 2454
E-mail: loaderl.stg@mail.uovs.ac.za  

22 October 2009
 

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