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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

Academic delivers inaugural lecture on South African foreign policy
2007-08-06

 

In her inaugural lecture Prof. Heidi Hudson from the Department of Political Sciences, focused on the impact that Pan-Africanist sentiments have had on South Africa’s foreign policy. She also put the resulting contradictions and ambiguities into context. At her inaugural lecture were, from the left: Proff. Frederick Fourie (Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the UFS), Heidi Hudson, Engela Pretorius (Vice-Dean: Faculty of The Humanities) and Daan Wessels (Research Associate in the Department of Political Science).
Photo: Stephen Collett

Academic delivers inaugural lecture on South African foreign policy

“We are committed to full participation as an equal partner … opposed to any efforts which might seek to project South Africa as some kind of superpower on our continent. … the people of Africa share a common destiny and must therefore … address their challenges … as a united force...” (Mbeki 1998:198-199).

Prof. Heidi Hudson from the Department of Political Science referred to this statement made by president Mbeki (made at the opening of the OAU Conference of Ministers of Information in 1995) when she delivered her inaugural lecture on the topic: South African foreign policy: The politics of Pan-Africanism and pragmatism.

One of the questions she asked is: “Can the South African state deliver democracy and welfare at home while simultaneously creating a stable, rules-based African community?”

She answers: “South Africa needs to reflect more critically and honestly on the dualism inherent in its ideological assumptions regarding relations with Africa. South Africa will always be expected by some to play a leadership role in Africa. At the moment, South Africa’s desire to be liked is hampering its role as leader of the continent.”

In her lecture she highlighted the ideological underpinnings and manifestations of South Africa’s foreign policy. Throughout she alluded to the risks associated with single-mindedly following an ideologically driven foreign policy. She emphasised that domestic or national interests are the victims in this process.

Prof. Hudson offers three broad options for South Africa to consider:

  • The Predator – the selfish bully promoting South African economic interest.
  • Mr Nice Guy – the non-hegemonic partner of the African boys club, multilaterally pursuing a pivotal but not dominant role.
  • The Hegemon - South Africa driving regional integration according to its values and favouring some African countries over others, and with checks and balances by civil society.

She chooses option three of hegemony. “Politically correct research views hegemony as bad and partnership as good. This is a romanticised notion – the two are not mutually exclusive,” she said.

However, she states that there have to be prerequisites to control the exercise of power. “The promotion of a counter-hegemon, such as Nigeria, is necessary. Nigeria has been more effective in some respects than South Africa in establishing its leadership, particularly in West Africa. Also needed is that government should be checked by civil society to avoid it sinking into authoritarianism. The case of business and labour coming to an agreement over the HIV/Aids issue is a positive example which illustrates that government cannot ignore civil society. But much more needs to be done in this regard. South Africa must also be very careful in how it uses its aid and should focus potential aid and development projects more explicitly in terms of promoting political stability,” she said.

Prof. Hudson said: “It is also questionable whether Mbeki’s Afro-centrism has in fact promoted the interests of ordinary citizens across Africa. Instead, elite interests in some countries have benefited. But ultimately, the single most important cost is the damage done to the moral code and ethical principles on which the South African Constitution and democracy is founded.

“In the end we all lose out. More pragmatism and less ideology in our relations within Africa may just be what are needed,” she said.

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