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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

Qwaqwa Campus’s Teaching and Learning Champs scoop up award
2014-10-24



Dr Elize Smuts (right) proudly displaying the UFS Vice-Chancellor’s Team Award. Equally ecstatic, is Qwaqwa Campus’s CTL Manager, Fred Mudavanhu.
Photo: Thabo Kessah
Action research to improve classroom practice and student success rates, recently received a boost when the Qwaqwa Campus’s Teaching and Learning (TL) Champions were honoured with the prestigious UFS Vice-Chancellor’s Team Award. The award was in recognition of the team’s efforts to enhance professional development and was accompanied by a R50 000 prize that will be utilised to further encourage and develop a scholarly culture on the Qwaqwa Campus.

“An active learning community has developed over the past four years, which led to the creation of a scholarly forum for sharing problems, experiences and new knowledge”, revealed Dr Elize Smuts, who has been the pillar of strength in the development of TL Champs.

“This”, Dr Smuts said, “has continuously motivated the group to persevere in challenging and often under-resourced circumstances.”

 “Over a four-year period, 44 projects were undertaken, many with great success. Thirteen scholars participated in a pilot of CLASSE (Classroom Assessment of Student Engagement) in 2013. This survey, contextualised by staff from the Centre for Teaching and Learning, was a first in South Africa,” said Dr Smuts.

“The team undertook extensive literature reviews and attended numerous workshops on principles and practices of good teaching, research and writing. The two summarising booklets they prepared from two publications (How Learning Works: 7 Research-based Principles for Smart Teaching and Student Engagement Techniques) in 2013, will serve as guides and inspiration for the larger academic community of the UFS for many years.”

Since the formation of this team, TL scholars have presented 25 papers at 12 national and two international conferences.

“Taking into consideration that it is not easy to get an abstract accepted for presentation, these are impressive achievements,” Dr Smuts said.

“Some of the immediate results of scholars engaged in this project, include improved student success rates averaging 20% compared to only 8% improvement by academics who are not part of the project.”
 
“In 2013, one TL scholar reported student success rates that increased by 29%; another reported 80% on average; and another reported an increase from 65% to 95% in a class bigger than previous years.”

In congratulating the team, Centre for Teaching and Learning’s (CTL) Prof Annette Wilkinson said that she was very proud of the team.
 
“The team’s dedication and growth in scholarly practice – amidst challenging circumstances – are in my mind, the outstanding features of the project. I am very proud of the entire team”, said Prof Wilkinson.

The two presentations at international conferences were delivered by Ms Lea Koenig at the 32nd Annual Conference on the First-Year-Experience in Orlando, Florida and by Dr Elize Smuts in North Carolina. Both of these were presented in 2013.


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