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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

Dying of consumption: Studying ‘othering’ and resistance in pop culture
2014-10-31

 

 

The Centre for Africa Studies (CAS) at the UFS – under the project leadership of Prof Heidi Hudson (CAS Director) – conceptualised an interdisciplinary research project on representations of otherness and resistance.

This is in collaboration with UFS departments such as the Odeion School of Music, the Department of Drama and Theatre Arts, the Department of Fine Arts, the Jonathan Edwards Centre Africa and the Department of Afrikaans and Dutch, German and French.  

In this project, Dr Stephanie Cawood from CAS leads a sub-project on the dynamics of pop culture and consumerism. Her research unpacks and critiques pop culture representations of othering and resistance by engaging with the othering rhetoric of conspicuous consumption as well as the subversive rhetoric or culture jamming at play in various South African youth subcultures.

Consumerism has become the institutional system in which we live our daily lives. Pop culture is the result when multinational corporations take aspects of culture and turn it into commodities with high market value. In pop culture and its manifestation, consumption, marketers and savvy advertising executives have realised long ago that othering and resistance are powerful tools to artificially create empty spaces in people’s lives that can only be filled through consuming.

“The scary thing is in my opinion that everyone has become a market segment, including very young children,” says Dr Cawood.

In his 1934 book, The Theory of the Leisure Class (TLC), Thorstein Veblen coined the term conspicuous consumption to describe the conduct of the nouveau riche. He  contended that when people manage to meet their basic human requirements, any additional accumulation of wealth will no longer relate to function, but will be spent on ostentatious displays of conspicuous consumption or waste. Conspicuous consumption has evolved into invidious consumption where consumption is a mark of one’s superior social status and particularly aimed at provoking envy. The whole point is unashamed one-upmanship.  

“Think of the izikhotane or skothane cultural phenomenon where young people engage in ritualised and ostentatious consumerist waste for social prestige. This is an excellent example of invidious consumption.

“Instead of striving to become good citizens, we have become good consumers and none are more vulnerable than our youth irrespective of cultural and ethnic differences”.

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