Paul Hawken, an environmentalist from California, USA, once made the comment that sustainability, ensuring the future of life on Earth, is an infinite game, an endless expression of generosity on behalf of all. He went further and stated that we assume that everything is becoming more efficient, and in an immediate sense that's true; our lives are better in many ways. But that improvement has been gained through a massively inefficient use of natural resources. In the same vein, Theodore Roosevelt was quoted saying ``To waste, to destroy our natural resources, to skin and exhaust the land instead of using it so as to increase its usefulness, will result in undermining in the days of our children the very prosperity which we ought by right to hand down to them amplified and developed.''
It is with these same sentiments that one of our research interests is on issues relating to the sustainable, environmentally friendly and cost-effective management of natural resources. Natural resource management refers to the management of natural resources such as land, water, soil, plants and animals and how it affects the quality of life for both present and future generations. It brings together aspects such as land use planning, water management, biodiversity conservation, and the future sustainability of industries like agriculture, mining, fisheries, and forestry. Operations research has played an important role in the analysis and decision making of natural resources, and have helped people to understand the complex functioning of the systems based upon natural resources, as well as to manage these type of systems in an efficient way.



In collaboration with SASRI and SUNORE

Funded by SASRI

In this project, a number of mathematical and simulation models are developed as a decision support toolkit for the sustainable, cost-effective and environmentally friendly management of an agricultural ecosystem, with a specific focus on pest management against Eldana saccharina Walker in sugarcane. Once a better understanding of the possible cause and effect of different management strategies on the population dynamics of Eldana has been gained by means of mathematical and simulation modelling, in-field experimentation may be done in a smarter, more targeted manner. 

Members and alumni involved: Linke Potgieter, Brian van Vuuren, Pieter de Wet

Other researchers involved: Des Conlong (SASRI), Jan van Vuuren (SUNORE)


In collaboration with GEM

Funded by SU

The availability of water resources has a significant impact on sustainable development. Water resources planners have the responsibility of developing plans which will best utilise scarce water resources. It is, however, difficult to identify an optimal allocation of water resources that is cost-effective and sustainable in the long run. In literature, a number of operations research methods have been applied to the water resources allocation problem. This project builds on these methods to provide a decision support tool for optimal allocation of water resources in the Lake Chad Basin.

Members involved: Noé Fouotsa Manfouo, Linke Potgieter

Other researchers involved: Hannelie Nel (SU/Logistics)


In collaboration with

Stellenbosch Biomathematics Group

Funded by the NRF

The sustainable and cost-effective management of the notorious water hyacinth weed remains a challenge in South Africa. The primary objectives in this project were to establish a spatio-temporal model which may be used to investigate the efficiency of different biological control release strategies, providing guidance towards the optimal magnitude, frequency, timing and distribution of BCA releases, and to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of local mass rearing programmes in biological control. Numerical solutions of the model emphasise the benefit of frequent releases of N. eichhorniae compared to a once-off release in the long term, as well as the advantage of more distributed releases along the edges of an infested water body. Furthermore, releases commencing in summer was significantly more efficient and cost-effective than releases commencing in winter.

Members and alumni involved: Heléne Delport, Linke Potgieter

Other researchers involved: Cang Hui (SBG)


In collaboration with SASRI

Funded by BioSafety

One of the main problems associated with transgenic crops, is that, in spite of their success in controlling target pests while allowing a substantial reduction of insecticide use, the sustainable control of these pest populations is threatened by the evolution of resistance. A number of strategies, which include refuge areas, for managing insect resistance in transgenic crops have been proposed that aim to delay the evolution of resistance in pest populations by promoting survival of susceptible insects. Refugia are areas of non-GM plantings between Bt GM crop. The optimal design of refuge areas are crucial in the success of using Bt GM crop over an extended period of time. The objective of this project is to be able to make a sound recommendation on the size and layout of refugia on sugarcane farms using Bt sugarcane that is lethal to the moth Eldana Saccharina Walker. A simulation model that can model millions of moths residing in sugarcane have been developed to simulate the spread of a resistant gene through an Eldana population residing in Bt Gm crop. This model may be adjusted for other species.

Members involved: Dirk Human, Linke Potgieter, Mashoto Maselela

Other researchers involved: Sandy Snyman (SASRI)