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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

Academics receive award from SA Academy for Science and Art
2009-07-02

 
The South African Academy for Science and Art recently celebrated its centenary year on the Main Campus of the University of the Free State (UFS) in Bloemfontein. Academics involved with the UFS received awards during the academy’s recent awards ceremony. A Centenary Medal was awarded to Prof. François Retief, former Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the UFS, for his achievement in the medical sciences over an extended period. The NT Steyn Medal was awarded to Prof. Andries Stulting from the Department of Ophthalmology at the UFS for achievements in the Technical and Natural Sciences and Prof. Albie van Schalkwyk, formerly from the UFS’s Department of Music, received the Huberte Rupert Prize for Classical Music.

According to Prof. Hennie van Coller, Head of the Department of Afrikaans and Dutch, German and French at the UFS and also Chairperson of the Academy, the centenary celebrations were a highlight in the existence of the academy. “For the first time in years there was a mood of optimism that could not be restrained by any differences between the attendees. Political hatchets were buried and members from different racial groups took hands for the road ahead. The continuous themes were that of excellence, which may not be sacrificed,” he said.

In his address as Chairman, Prof. van Coller emphasised that the specific niche of the Academy (the development of the higher function of Afrikaans) should not limit the organisation to also be involved in Afrikaans at grassroots level (especially rural brown people and suburban white people) who often had to deal with poverty and illiteracy and who battled for survival. The Academy had to act as facilitator and offer its expertise to people like those.

At the awards ceremony of the South African Academy for Science and Art were, from the left: Mr Jaco Jacobs, who received the Elsabe Steenberg Prize for translated Children’s and Youth Literature in Afrikaans, Prof. Hennie van Coller and Prof. François Retief.
Photo: Stephen Collett

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