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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

Food insecurity at university campuses under the spotlight
2015-08-20

 

"Food insecurity is   becoming an increasing problem at South African universities, much to the surprise of university managers." - Dr Louise van den Bergh, senior lecturer and researcher at our department of Nutrition and Dietetics

More than 70% of early university dropouts in the country were forced to abandon their tertiary studies because of food insecurity and financial need.

This was one of the conclusions drawn during the first higher education colloquium on food insecurity. The colloquium was hosted on by the University of the Free State (UFS) on the Bloemfontein Campus on 14 August 2015, where researchers from universities across the country shared their research about food insecurity on university campuses.

In South Africa, university campuses are not usually associated with food insecurity but, over the last few years, tertiary education has become more accessible to an increasing number of first-generation students and students from low-income households.

Some of the research indicated that students from lower-income households are often lacking financially, even with bursaries. The research has also shown that students frequently have to use part of their bursary money to support their families. This results in students not having enough money to buy food, which means they will do almost anything to get food.

A study by the UFS Department of Nutrition and Dietetics found that as many as 60% of our students are food insecure, and experience hunger frequently. This study was the first of its kind in South Africa. In 2011, the UFS launched the No Student Hungry Bursary Programme to provide food bursaries to food-insecure students.

At the opening of the colloquium, Prof Jonathan Jansen, Vice-Chancellor and Rector of the UFS, said by helping students with a basic commodity like food, you give them much more than food; you give them humanity and dignity.

Dr Louise van den Bergh, senior lecturer and researcher in the UFS Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, explains that the problem is considerably more complex than just providing for students financially.

Dr Van den Bergh says that funders need to reassess bursaries, keeping issues such as food insecurity in mind, and not focusing just on tuition.

Research presented at the colloquium: (PDF's van die slides)

UFS Food environment and nutritional practices

UFS Skeleton in the University closet

UKZN Achieving food security

UKZN Food security and academic performance

UKZN Hunger for knowledge

UKZN Perceptions of food insecurity complexities

UW Food acquisition struggles

 

 

 

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