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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

Golden Key recognises top achievers
2012-08-29

A jam packed audience listens to the keynote address at the UFS Golden Key Annual new members’ ceremony.
Photo: Stephen Collett
29 August 2012

Recognising academic excellence at the University of the Free State (UFS), the world’s biggest academic honour society, Golden Key International Honour Society, selected a record number of Kovsie students as new members this year.

More than 700 top achievers have been invited to join the prestige academic society – the biggest crop of students thus far.

New members, the top 15% of academic students at Kovsies, were welcomed to the society’s UFS Chapter at an induction ceremony held on Saturday 25 August 2012. The ceremony also saw Justice Ian van der Merwe, Chairperson of the UFS Council, Mr Billyboy Ramahlele, Director Community Engagement, and Prof. Hendrik Swart, Senior Professor in Physics at the UFS being recognised as honorary members of the society. The event, held at the Kovsie Church, drew a large crowd with the venue packed to capacity.

Sibusiso Tshabalala, a third-year BCom Law student, and recently selected as one of ten Google Young Minds for 2012, delivered the keynote address. Structuring his talk around dreams, fears and music, Sibusiso told students they had joined a global community of students who valued academic achievement, leadership and service. “In a country where rhetoric triumphs over logic and mediocrity rules supreme, while excellence is fast becoming taboo, we need the thinkers to do the leading.”

Dr Derek Swemmer, Registrar and co-advisor of the UFS Chapter, told the students they had demonstrated the ability and now had to fulfil their potential. He was appointed as Chairperson of the society’s governing body in March this year.

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