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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

Researcher at Qwaqwa Campus, Dr Aliza le Roux, selected as SAYAS member
2014-09-12

 

Dr Aliza le Roux

Dr Aliza le Roux, senior lecturer in the Department of Zoology and Entomology on the Qwaqwa Campus of the University of the Free State (UFS), was selected as a member of the 2014 South African Young Academy of Science (SAYAS). Dr Le Roux, a member of the Vice-Chancellor's Prestige Scholars Programme at the UFS, is also a South African National Research Foundation-rated (NRF) scientist (Y2) and the winner of the UFS Vice-Chancellor’s Excellence in Teaching Award in 2013.

She sees her selection to SAYAS as a unique opportunity to help change the face of science in South Africa. Dr Le Roux hopes to use her skills as project leader in social media, as well as her own learning experiences on a rural campus, to inspire especially ecological research in a country so rich in its own natural heritage.

The SAYAS selection committee was impressed by the high level of academic merit and depth of the nominations they received. “Your membership is critical in contributing to many of the vital activities and functioning of SAYAS, and we look forward to your active contributions to the further development and growth of the Young Academy,” said Prof Aldo Stroebel, Chair: SAYAS Selection Committee.

Prof Corli Witthuhn, Vice-Rector: Research at the UFS, said, “Aliza le Roux is an outstanding young scientist on our Qwaqwa Campus. She is not only an outstanding researcher but has also received prizes during the past year for her dedication to teaching. I am very excited about the young researchers on our Qwaqwa Campus with Aliza as one of the leaders, and I am looking forward to what else they can achieve in the next five years.”

In the past decade, Dr Le Roux focused her research on the cognitive and communicative skills of wild mammals in South Africa and Ethiopia. She spent four years as a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Michigan, leading to ground-breaking research on the cognitive and communicative underpinnings of gelada monkey behaviour. Her current work encompasses an NRF-funded project on paternal care in bat-eared foxes, and experimental research on spatial cognition in wild samango monkeys. She is also involved in discussions with the Endangered Wildlife Trust to research the mitigation of road-kill incidents in South Africa.

Dr Le Roux hopes to combine cognitive ecology with more applied conservation questions in order to raise the profile of behavioural ecology as a discipline. She believes strongly in involving the public with scientific research, and has blogged for Nature Magazine on her adventures as field biologist. Her work has since found its way into numerous websites, magazine and newspaper articles and she has been interviewed on radio and BBC World.

Dr Le Roux will be inaugurated as SAYAS member on 14 October 2014.

Dr Marieka Gryzenhout from the Department of Plant Sciences is also a member of SAYAS.


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