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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

One, two, three – is your thesis done?
2016-08-26

Description: three-minute-thesis  Tags: three-minute-thesis

Winners of the UFS Three-Minute-Thesis competition.
From the left: Thutukile Jita, Natural/Social Sciences
PhD winner; Saheed Sabiu, Natural/Health Sciences
and audience-favourite PhD winner;
Matseliso Mkotywa, master’s audience-favourite
winner; Zingisile Mbo, Natural/Health Sciences
master’s winner.
Photo: Charl Devenish

“Next time you have three minutes to spare, try to formulate your master’s or doctoral thesis,” says Dr Henriëtte van den Berg, Director of the Postgraduate School at the University of the Free State (UFS).

The much anticipated Three-Minute-Thesis (3MT) Competition took place at the UFS Bloemfontein Campus on Friday 19 August 2016. Diverse and interesting research projects were discussed, giving one a glimpse into months and even years of hard work and dedication.

A learning opportunity for candidates
The 3MT competition is an international event founded at the University of Queensland, Australia. It is divided into master’s and PhD categories.  At the UFS competition, the master’s section was dominated by the Medical and Natural Sciences, in contrast with the PhD section’s focus on Social Sciences. “The competition is a learning opportunity for our UFS candidates,” says Dr Henriëtte van den Berg.

Thought-provoking research presented
Interesting methodologies and research questions sustained the academic excellence the candidates pride themselves in. Saheed Sabiu, PhD candidate and winner, constructed his thesis around, Waste to Health: Corn silk in the Management of Kidney Diseases. “Use corn silk (white fibre around corn) in the same manner as a tea bag, to help manage kidney diseases,” says Sabiu.

Audience members also had the opportunity to ask the candidates questions relating to their thesis topic.

Winners at the event:
•    Master’s winner: Zingisile Mbo
•    PhD winner: Natural/ Health Science: Saheed Sabiu
•    PhD winner: Natural/Social Sciences: Thutukile Jita

The winners of each category received a cash prize and will represent the UFS at the national 3MT competition, hosted by the UFS in November this year.

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