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14 May 2019 | Story Thabo Kessah | Photo Tsepo Moeketsi
Prof Ashafa
Prof Ashafa’s research documents plants used by the Basotho in the management of different ailments.

The Phytomedicine and Phytopharmacology Research Programme (PPRP) in the Department of Plant Sciences on the Qwaqwa Campus researches the biological effects of medicinal plants used in the folkloric medicine of the Eastern Free State, particularly to explore the values and contribution of indigenous knowledge systems (IKS) towards broader scientific research. This is according to the programme’s principal investigator and researcher, NRF C2-rated researcher, Professor Anofi Ashafa. 

 “Our research is mainly aimed at documenting plants used by the Basotho in the management of different ailments and to further discover, isolate, and purify active phytoconstituents that are responsible for disease curation or amelioration, thereby assisting in the global promotion of accessible and affordable medication in developing countries,” said Prof Ashafa. 

Since 2012, the PPRP has worked extensively on Basotho medicinal plants (BMP) used as antimicrobials, antioxidants, antidiabetics, antitubercular, anticancer, anthelmintic, and antidiarrheal agents, starting from biological activities up to the  evaluation of the toxicity of these plants for the kidney, liver, and heart functions in order to establish safe dosage parameters. These activities have led to the discovery of four potent antidiabetic biomolecules that are awaiting the processes of patency and commercialisation. Additional outputs include 104 published peer-reviewed articles , 7 postdoctoral fellows, 6 PhDs, 9 master’s, and 16 honours graduates. 

“Our research informs teaching and the development of expertise in ethnobotany, 
phytomedicine, and phytopharmacology in order to contribute to the National Development Plan (NDP) through human capacity development, skills, and knowledge transfer.

The group is also investigating some medicinal plants on the endangered red list of the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), through micropropagation and field trials as well as proposing conservation strategies to preserve these valuable species.

The PPRP consists of postdoctoral fellows, PhD, master’s, and honours students and research is done in collaboration with several local and international universities as well as the Agricultural Research Council of South Africa. 


News Archive

UN-SPIDER expert appointed at UFS Risk Management Centre
2017-06-02

Description: Dr Joerg Szarzynski Tags: Dr Joerg Szarzynski

Dr Joerg Szarzynski, head of the EduSphere section
and Education Programme Director at the
United Nations University, Institute for Environment
and Human Security.
Photo: Supplied

“This new development will strengthen the long-lasting collaboration between DiMTEC and the United Nations University, Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS) in Bonn in Germany. This [collaboration] goes back for almost a decade of joint training courses and increasingly also includes collaboration in the frame of scientific projects, especially in Africa.”

These were the words of Dr Joerg Szarzynski after his appointment as Affiliated Associate Professor to the Disaster Management Training and Education Centre for Africa (DiMTEC) at the University of the Free State (UFS). Dr Szarzynski will assume his new position with immediate effect.
 
The United Nations University (UNU) is a global thinktank and postgraduate teaching organisation headquartered in Japan.

Dr Szarzynski, head of the EduSphere section and Education Programme Director at UNU-EHS, brings with him a wealth of experience, including serving as senior expert to the United Nations Platform for Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response (UN-SPIDER). Within the team, he was principal desk officer for Africa responsible for relief activities after natural disasters, technical consultation, information management, collaborative network development and the cluster on health and climate change adaptation. He also has broad expertise in climatology and remote sensing, global environmental change research, capacity-building and web-based data and information management.

“Dr Szarzynski’s appointment brings
new research opportunities.”

Lecture focus on vulnerability and disaster risk reduction
As part of his new academic responsibilities, Dr Szarzynski will conduct face-to-face lectures during a course on vulnerability and disaster risk-reduction. With this course the centre aims to increase awareness of the complexity and importance of vulnerability and resilience in the field of disaster risk management. Dr Szarzynski’s teachings will focus on Early Warning Systems and Geospatial Technologies in Support of Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and Emergency Response Preparedness. He will also lead courses on Assessment and Coordination in International Disaster Management and Humanitarian Response and Information Technology in Disaster Risk Reduction and Disaster Management.

Furthermore he will give lectures via distance learning for the wider curriculum at DiMTEC.

Collaboration between DiMTEC and UNU
Dr Andries Jordaan, Director of DiMTEC at the UFS said: “His appointment opens new networks within the United Nations system, which brings new research opportunities. Furthermore, his expertise is important to us. He has already provided input and delivered lectures through Skype in the course of Information Technology and Communication.”

Dr Szarzynski has been lecturing for the past 10 years in the UFS’ international PhD curriculum.

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