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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

UFS responds to media reports about UFS101
2012-08-18

The UFS101 is a cross-disciplinary module of the University of the Free State (UFS) that encourages critical thinking and offers access to knowledge beyond the specific qualifications for which students are registered. This is a multi-disciplinary academic curriculum that includes topics in astronomy, nanotechnology, history, law, anthropology and religion.

Throughout the seven units students are taught to think broadly rather than narrowly, and critically rather than through rote-learning.

The core curriculum module raises some difficult questions about science, humanity and the universe that have occupied human beings for centuries. There is considerable effort put into the module to enable balance, respect, and independent thinking. Students are not taught what to think but are offered different perspectives on difficult issues.

“In my unit on the question ‘how should we deal with the past?’ every effort is made for students to examine the perspectives on history held by people from different communities in South Africa,” said Prof. Jonathan Jansen, Vice-Chancellor and Rector of the UFS.

Students are then encouraged to speak in class, online and in tutorial groups where they are given ample opportunities to take a position and defend it not through emotion and anger, but through logic and reason.

The objective of the module is to equip students to deal with “the present past” in constructive and empathetic ways. They are also prepared to become active citizens outside the classroom and gain skills they can use anywhere in the world.

Some students find the module difficult at first, since most of them are not used to the practice of critical thinking and dealing with difficult questions from the past, the present and the future. Most students gradually come to enjoy the core curriculum module as they become accustomed to a new style of teaching and learning.

There are 700 first-year modules at the UFS. This is the only one module offered to students in English so that all students, local and international, can engage with one another directly on the subject matter discussed in the module. However, the module material is also available in Afrikaans online.It is a pity that AfriForum Jeug Kovsies did not discuss their concerns with the presenters of the module, but chose to do it through the media.

It is a pity that AfriForum Jeug Kovsies did not discuss their concerns with the presenters of the module, but chose to do it through the media.

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