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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

The failure of the law
2004-06-04

 

Written by Lacea Loader

- Call for the protection of consumers’ and tax payers rights against corporate companies

An expert in commercial law has called for reforms to the Companies Act to protect the rights of consumers and investors.

“Consumers and tax payers are lulled into thinking the law protects them when it definitely does not,” said Prof Dines Gihwala this week during his inaugural lecture at the University of the Free State’s (UFS).

Prof Gihwala, vice-chairperson of the UFS Council, was inaugurated as extraordinary professor in commercial law at the UFS’s Faculty of Law.

He said that consumers, tax payers and shareholders think they can look to the law for an effective curb on the enormous power for ill that big business wields.

“Once the public is involved, the activities of big business must be controlled and regulated. It is the responsibility of the law to oversee and supervise such control and regulation,” said Prof Gihwala.

He said that, when undesirable consequences occur despite laws enacted specifically to prevent such results, it must be fair to suggest that the law has failed.

“The actual perpetrators of the undesirable behaviour seldom pay for it in any sense, not even when criminal conduct is involved. If directors of companies are criminally charged and convicted, the penalty is invariably a fine imposed on the company. So, ironically, it is the money of tax payers that is spent on investigating criminal conduct, formulating charges and ultimately prosecuting the culprits involved in corporate malpractice,” said Prof Gihwala.

According to Prof Gihwala the law continuously fails to hold companies meaningfully accountable to good and honest business values.

“Insider trading is a crime and, although legislation was introduced in 1998 to curb it, not a single successful criminal prosecution has taken place. While the law appears to be offering the public protection against unacceptable business behaviour, it does no such thing – the law cannot act as a deterrent if it is inadequate or not being enforced,” he said.

The government believed it was important to facilitate access to the country’s economic resources by those who had been denied it in the past. The Broad Based Economic Empowerment Act of 2003 (BBEE), is legislation to do just that. “We should be asking ourselves whether it is really possible for an individual, handicapped by the inequities of the past, to compete in the real business world even though the BBEE Act is now part of the law?,” said Prof Gihwala.

Prof Gihwala said that judges prefer to follow precedent instead of taking bold initiative. “Following precedent is safe at a personal level. To do so will elicit no outcry of disapproval and one’s professional reputation is protected. The law needs to evolve and it is the responsibility of the judiciary to see that it happens in an orderly fashion. Courts often take the easy way out, and when the opportunity to be bold and creative presents itself, it is ignored,” he said.

“Perhaps we are expecting too much from the courts. If changes are to be made to the level of protection to the investing public by the law, Parliament must play its proper role. It is desirable for Parliament to be proactive. Those tasked with the responsibility of rewriting our Companies Act should be bold and imaginative. They should remove once and for all those parts of our common law which frustrate the ideals of our Constitution, and in particular those which conflict with the principles of the BBEE Act,” said Prof Gihwala.

According to Prof Gihwala, the following reforms are necessary:

• establishing a unit that is part of the office of the Registrar of Companies to bolster a whole inspectorate in regard to companies’ affairs;
• companies who are liable to pay a fine or fines, should have the right to take action to recover that fine from those responsible for the conduct;
• and serious transgression of the law should allow for imprisonment only – there should be no room for the payment of fines.
 

Prof Gihwala ended the lecture by saying: “If the opportunity to re-work the Companies Act is not grabbed with both hands, we will witness yet another failure in the law. Even more people will come to believe that the law is stupid and that it has made fools of them. And that would be the worst possible news in our developing democracy, where we are struggling to ensure that the Rule of Law prevails and that every one of us has respect for the law”.

 

 

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