ARUA Centre of Excellence: Energy
The ARUA CoE in Energy is a multidisciplinary, collaborative effort through the network of 15 African Universities to enhance the integrative links between Renewable Energy (RE), Water and Food, and thereby achieve sustainable agricultural development in Africa. The ARUA CoE in Energy has prioritized the integration of RE into systems that address the food, nutrition and water supply challenges of Africa. Whereas energy, water and food are often described as a nexus of stumbling blocks in socio-economic development, the CoE in Energy considers such integration of technologies to offer opportunities for socio-economic advancement through the associated self-sufficiency. Such integration of RE into water and food supply systems is expected to enable sustainable intensification of agriculture, improved postharvest processing and preservation of foods, and the supply of water, as these are critically dependent on energy availability. The implementation of integrated, self-sufficient energy-water-food systems will substantially improve agricultural productivity and the supply of highly nutritious foods to Africa. Furthermore, the self-sufficient, integrated energy-water-food systems will be highly efficient in its use of natural resources, thus minimizing the environmental impacts of food production, and moving towards a sustainable regime for agricultural production and post-harvesting processing.
This approach invariably requires a focus on integrated technical solutions that are affordable, practical and implementable within the African context.
Examples of self-sufficient, integrated energy-water-food systems could include:
- Manure from dairy farms used to generate biogas through anaerobic digestion, as an energy source to provide cooling for postharvest preservation of dairy products.
- Solar-thermal pasteurization of dairy products
- Harvesting of invasive water hyacinth dams and lakes, for utilization as renewable energy to provide water treatment and cold storage facilities for local fish products.
- Renewable energy in integrated aquaculture-aquaponics systems, which includes waste processing for water & nutrients recycling, and the integration of renewable energy supply.
- Desalination of seawater with renewable energy to provide irrigation for greenhouses located in the desert.
- Solar PV for supply of irrigation, to improve agricultural productivity
- Renewable energy for postharvesting processing of agricultural crops and residues into highly nutritious food products.
The ARUA CoE: Energy is pursuing these goals through collaborative projects with multidisciplinary partners, as a means to realise the socio-economic and sustainable development benefits of this approach. The primary focus of the CoE: Energy is therefore not on energy production per se, but rather the integration of renewable energy and water technologies into efficient, self-sufficient and sustainable food production systems. The integrated application of technologies to achieve such agricultural development is well supported by several international efforts and examples.
Prof Neill Goosen
Professor of Process Engineering
Faculty of Engineering, Stellenbosch University
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