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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 of our academics contribute to a fascinating book
2012-08-11

Prof. Jo van As earlier this year with proofs of the book The Story of Life & the Environment: An African Perspective.
Photo: Leatitia Pienaar
10 August 2012

The planet has more species than ever before, but humans are responsible for the biggest mass extinction of all times. This is according to Prof. Jo van As, Head of the Department of Zoology and Entomology. He was speaking at the launch of the book The Story of Life & the Environment: An African Perspective.

The book was published by Random House Struik in July 2012 and is a sister publication of The Story of Earth & Life by Prof. Bruce Rubidge, which was published in 2005.

The Story of Life & the Environment: An African Perspective took five years to complete. Prof. Van As was the compiling author, with Prof. Johann du Preez, Head of Plant Sciences at our university, Prof. Leslie Brown of Unisa and Prof. Nico Smit of the North-West University as co-writers.

Prof. Van As said, “No other species has destroyed the earth as we have done. Biological diversity disappears at the rate of mass extinction. The effects of human activities on the biological diversity is bigger that the extinction of the dinosaurs.”

He, however, added that The Story of Life & the Environment: An African Perspective does not sketch a doomsday scenario. It has also a message of hope. Prof. Van As said it was good to see progress in conservation and care for the environment. Trans-frontier parks the size of some countries are a good example of work in this regard.

Mr Stephen Johnson, chairperson of the board of Random House Struik, said at the launch that the publishing house was proud to be associated with the impressive book. The publication will be a touchstone for thoughtful readers for a long time. It will also remain a general book for the public and learners on the topic. The content and design was done in such a way that the publication will be relevant to all audiences.

The Afrikaans version of the book, Die Verhaal van Lewe en die Omgewing, will be published soon.
 

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