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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

The challenges of local governance highlighted at the JN Boshoff Memorial lecture
2014-08-26

 

Mr Kopung Ralikontsane
Photo: Jerry Mokoroane

The annual JN Boshoff memorial lecture was hosted by the Faculty of Economics and Management Sciences in conjunction with the Department of Public Management on 21 August 2014. Mr Kopung Ralikontsane, Director-general of the Free State Provincial Government, presented the keynote address, ‘Challenges Facing Local Government in Service Delivery’.

In his opening remarks, Mr Ralikontsane gave the background of the South African municipal structures, the legal framework within which they operate and the challenges they are currently facing. He added that “local government is a sphere at the coalface of service delivery and if this sphere fails, South Africa would have failed to be a developmental state.”

He said the Free State provincial government has made great strides in developing local communities, with millions of rands invested in various development projects such as water and sanitation, electrification, roads and storm water structures, community facilities and solid waste disposal.

Local government is still faced with other challenges, though. He pointed out that public employees are subject to greater scrutiny and increased demands from citizens. As a result, they have to provide better services, but within stricter limits on resources. Conflict arises due to changing relationships between public servants and citizens, downsizing, restructuring and contracting out of government services and activities.

Despite the various structures implemented by local government, municipalities are serving an ever-growing population in an economic decline. Regulations have been put into place to devise credible Integrated Development Plans (IDPs) to improve municipal infrastructure, build competent management teams and strong operations and increase technical capacity for effective delivery of services.

Mr Ralikontsane invited students to join local government in crafting innovative solutions. “We know the problem, but we need to encourage you to join forces with your local government and tackle them.”

Mr Kopung Ralikontsane has served in local government for two decades and also serves as Head of Administration of the Free State Government and as Cabinet Secretary.


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