Researchers to represent UFS at BRICS summit

Dr Thulisile Mphambukeli, leader of the BRICS research team that is exploring the political economy of water and food security, and her research partner, Dr Victor Okorie. PHOTO: RULANZEN MARTIN

A team of researchers led by Dr Thulisile Mphambukeli, who is from the University of the Free State (UFS), will be part of the delegates at the 10th Annual Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa (BRICS) Summit later this month.
Mphambukeli will be joined by Dr Victor Okorie from the UFS Department of Urban and Regional Planning as well as Professor Lere Amusan of North-West University (NWU). This trio will be making sure that water and food security issues are extensively covered on the summit’s agenda.
The team will also debut their project, titled “Exploring the political economy of water and food security nexus in BRICS and Africa”, at the National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences BRICS Think Tank Forum.
In a statement issued by the UFS, Professor Amusan said the team intended to propose functional solutions that take the quality of water into consideration at the summit. He also added that the equitable production and distribution of water depends on endorsing policies of co-production between citizens, governments and the public sector.
BRICS member states are all mutually affected by issues of water and food security, hence its feature on this prestigious summit’s agenda.
Mphambukeli said that the key to water security is by changing attitudes of water consumers through education and making them conscious of all the socio-economic factors that are in play with regards to water and food security. She further said that she is adamant that these two tools alone possess the potential to change the behavioural approach that society has towards the water and how it will going forward interact with water.
Through the project, the team will also take a look at the social dimensions of water one tends to take for granted, such as, for example, flushing a toilet. “Research activities on redesigning toilets, especially the urinal, where more than nine liters of water is used to flush less than one cubic centimeter of urine, are timely in the context of managing water and the food nexus crises,” said Okorie.
Okorie also said that if strides towards reducing the demand for water were to be made, research efforts should be geared towards effecting changes at DNA level. Meaning researchers need to start exploring water-wise ways that enable crops and animals to thrive optimally.
He further added that combining the genetic and social approaches would allow for greater production, however, with a smaller water footprint. This can be made possible by implementing precision agriculture which is about estimating and applying exact quantities of water and nutrients needed for the production of crops or the raising of livestock.
According to the UFS website, South Africa will host this year’s Summit in Johannesburg in the last week of May.