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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

UFS implements paperless meeting system
2004-08-20

 

The Management Committee of the University of the Free State ’s (UFS) Executive Management recently entered the electronic environment of more effective and centralised meeting and decision-making administration by implementing ‘n computerised meeting system.

With this the UFS became the first higher education institution in the world to use the PARNASSUS-meeting management system. PARNASSUS , which refers to a mountain in the Greek mythology, is a licensed system from CIPAL in Belguim – a developer of software for a variety of applications.

“In stead of coming to a weekly management meeting with a file of documentation, each member now walks in with his/her laptop and the whole meeting procedure takes place electronically,” says Prof Sakkie Steyn, Registrar: General at the UFS.

At the same time the secretary registers the minutes point by point on the PARNASSUS programme. At the end of the meeting, after certain technical finishes are done, the minutes are distributed to members of the meeting and their secretaries/office managers. The draft minutes is also distributed to those who must implement decisions and prepare implementation steps. These staff members are given security clearance beforehand.

“The system is unique due to the fact that a translation engine has been built into the agenda and minute system. Agenda items can be submitted in Afrikaans and then automatically be translated in English by means of the interactive translation engine, or vice versa. The same principle applies to the minutes,” says Prof Steyn.

According to Prof Steyn the translation engine was develop with the expert assistance of the UFS’s Unit for Language Facilitation and Empowerment (ULFE). Word strings from previous minutes are now being added to the corpus of the translation engine.

“The system enables the secretary to continuously monitor which points are submitted for the agenda and if these points comply with the set standards namely clear recommendations, background and proposed implementation steps. The agenda is closed at a certain moment and no new points can then be added. The secretary does certain technical finished by means of a final classification of point and annexures. The draft agenda is then sent to the chairperson for approval, after which the agenda is electronically sent to members of the meeting and their secretaries/office managers for preparation,” says Prof Steyn.

“After the minutes have been approved at the next meeting, it is saved on the PARNASSUS decisions data base. The tracing of decisions made during previous meetings can be done by any person with the necessary security clearance. This is different from the past where stacks of documents had to be searched to find a decision,” says Prof Steyn.

According to Prof Steyn the secretariat and meeting administration services at the UFS has now entered a fully virtual and electronic environment. This will enhance effective decision making tremendously. “The PARNASSUS system saves us costs and time and the decentralisation of submissions to meetings lessens the work at centralised points,” says Prof Steyn.

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