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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

Digital Storytelling empowers and liberates students
2014-10-17

In January 2014, Jode Brexa, an American Fulbright scholar, came to our university and moved into the guest room at Welwitschia residence.

It so happened that Brexa and Elize Rall, residence head of Welwitschia – better known as Wel-Wel – started talking about digital storytelling. Brexa’s Digital Storytelling project captured Rall’s imagination. Shortly thereafter, Brexa convinced the RC members of Wel-Wel to participate in the project.

Digital storytelling is, on the most basic level, the use of computer-based resources to tell stories. The idea is to combine the art of storytelling with multimedia – including graphics, photos, text, audio, image and/or music.

The Wel-Wel students were taught storytelling skills and each student’s unique story was recorded and edited. It was so successful that they then showed their stories to the Rector and Dean of Students. Brexa will now – with their permission – take their stories to America with her, where she will share it with her community.

During the weekend of 10–12 October 2014, the RC of Wel-Wel introduced 12 learners, who are currently in Grade 10 at the Christiaan Liphoko School, to the project. The learners stayed in the gazellie for the weekend and, in the course of a few days, learned how much power is locked up in their personal stories. They learned that everyone’s story has the power to inspire and empower.

Wel-Wel has been involved in various outreach projects to the community. However, this was the first time that Wel-Wel literally brought the community to their doorstep. This is also not a charitable project. It is uplifted students reaching out to the youth to empower them in order to empower others in turn.

Meanwhile, Brexa also linked the project to the university’s Schools Partnership Project. The programme works through mentorship programmes to uplift previously disadvantaged schools. Hands were also taken with Columba Leadership NGO – financed by Old Mutual.

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