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02 May 2018 Photo Charl Devenish
South Campus UAP celebrates 27 years of access to education
Mr Francois Marais, Prof Kalie Strydom, Prof Daniella Coetzee (South Campus Principal), Prof Francis Petersen, Dr Nthabeleng Rammile (Vice-Chairperson of the UFS Council), and Dr Khotso Mokhele (Chancellor of the UFS).

More than 27 years ago, international funding from the Human Sciences Research Council and Anglo American was put to an unusual use for that time. Prof Kalie Strydom’s research unit at the University of the Free State (UFS) was tasked with reviewing how institutional missions would change in the new South Africa. Prof Strydom worked closely with surrounding communities in Bloemfontein to develop a bridging course which would help students who showed potential to access tertiary education, although they did not meet the requirements. His vision brought to birth the University Access Programme (UAP), as it is known today, which is hosted on the UFS South Campus, and is still providing unique access to higher-education institutions in South Africa.

People with a passion for human development
March 2018 saw the 27th anniversary of this remarkable initiative, which has given a second chance to over 18 000 students. Special guests at the event included Prof Strydom, Mr Francois Marais, and representatives from the Department of Higher Education and Training and Investec’s corporate social investment office.

Dr Sonja Loots, researcher in the UFS Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL), singled out two key individuals in the formation of the UAP: Prof Kalie Strydom, who initiated the programme, and Mr Marais, who has been Director of the UAP since its inception. Dr Loots highlighted one of the driving forces behind Prof Strydom’s perseverance, vision, and determination with the UAP by quoting from an interview with him for an upcoming book on student access and success. He said, “It was a decision based on principle … to be part of the solution to a better country.”

Access and success still an issue today
In his presentation on the “Importance of Access”, Prof Francis Petersen, Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the UFS, pointed out the vital role of access in South Africa, especially the value it offers for the betterment of the country’s people. However, he said that student success is also an issue, and institutions need to be accountable for it. Quoting Prof John Martin of the University of Cape Town’s Faculty of Engineering, “We must be flexible on access, but robust on success.” Only by “closing the loop” in this way, can the UFS and other higher-education institutions ensure a valuable contribution to the economy of the country.

News Archive

Research helps farmers save with irrigation
2017-02-15

Description: Irrigation research Tags: Irrigation research

Marcill Venter, lecturer in the Department of
Agricultural Economics at the University of the
Free State, has developed the mathematical
programming system, Soil Water Irrigation
Planning and Energy Management in order to
determine irrigation pump hours.
Photo: Rulanzen Martin

Her advice to farmers is that they should make sure they are aware of the total cost (investment and operating costs) of an irrigation system. In most cases the investment cost is low, but the operating cost over the lifetime of the system is high.

“It is very important to have a look at the total cost and to install the most economic system,” says Marcill Venter, lecturer at the University of the Free State (UFS), who has done research on the economic sustainability of water-pipe systems.

Irrigation systems important components for farming
This research comes at a time when many farmers are relying on their irrigation systems due to persistent drought and low rainfall during 2016. South Africa has also experienced an abnormal increase in electricity tariffs in recent years. Due to tariff increases which threaten the future profitability of irrigation producers, the Water Research Commission (WRC) has launched and financed a project on the sustainable management of irrigation farming systems. “I had the opportunity to work on the project as a researcher,” says Venter.

The heart of every irrigation system is the water pipes that bring life to crops and livestock, and this is what Venter’s research is about. “Water pipes are part of the whole design of irrigation systems. The design of the system impact certain factors which determine the investment and operating costs,” she says.

Mathematical system to help farmers
Venter and Professor Bennie Grové, also from the Department of Agricultural Economics at the UFS, designed the Soil Water Irrigation Planning and Energy Management (SWIP-E) programming model as part of the WRC’s project, as well as for her master’s degree. “The model determines irrigation pump hours through a daily groundwater budget, while also taking into account the time-of-use electricity tariff structure and change in kilowatt requirements arising from the main-line design,” says Venter. The model is a non-linear programming model programmed in General Algebraic Modeling System (GAMS).

Design of irrigation system important for sustainability

The main outcome of the study is that the time-of-use electricity tariff structure (Ruraflex) is always more profitable than the flat-rate structure (Landrate). The interaction between the management and design of a system is crucial, as it determines the investment and operating costs. Irrigation designers should take the investment and operating cost of a system into account during the design process. The standards set by the South African Irrigation Institute (SAII) should also be controlled and revised.

Water-pipe thickness plays major role in cost cuts
There is interaction between water-pipe thickness, investment and operating costs. When thinner water pipes are installed, it increases the friction in the system as well as the kilowatt usage. A high kilowatt increases the operating cost, but the use of thinner water pipes lowers the investment cost. Thicker water pipes therefore lower the friction and the kilowatt requirements, which leads to lower operating costs, but thicker pipes have a higher investment cost. “It is thus crucial to look at the total cost (operating and investment cost) when investing in a new system. Farmers should invest in the system with the lowest total cost,” says Venter.

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