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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

UFS academics to submit proposal on innovative research for smallholder agriculture
2009-08-04

 
Here are, from the left: Dr Bennie Grové, Department of Agricultural Economics; Prof. Schalk Louw, Department of Zoology and Entomology; Prof. Bland; Prof. Swart; and Prof. André Pelser, Department of Sociology.
Photo: Arthur Johnson


Prof. Wijnand Swart, Director of the Strategic Research Cluster (Technologies for sustainable crop industries in semi-arid regions) at the University of the Free State (UFS) recently hosted Prof. William (Bill) Bland, Chairperson of the Department of Soil Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA. Prof. Bland’s visit to the UFS was linked to an initiative by Prof. Swart to forge closer links with this university by signing a Memorandum of Understanding in the near future.

Opportunities for collaborative research were discussed with various academics at the UFS, including Prof. Teuns Verschoor, Vice-Rector: Academic Operations, and Prof. Aldo Stroebel, Director: Internationalisation. A definite outcome of these talks is that six researchers from the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, in collaboration with Prof. Bland and scientists from the Universities of Makerere and Umutara in Uganda and Rwanda respectively, will submit a joint proposal for a research programme, supported by the National Science Foundation of the USA and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The objective of this programme, referred to as the BREAD programme (Basic Research to Enable Agricultural Development), is to support innovative scientific research designed to address constraints to smallholder agriculture in the developing world. Prof. Bland also delivered a lecture in the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences entitled, Holon Agroecology: A Conceptual Framework for a New Agricultural Expertise. The lecture was followed by a multi-disciplinary panel discussion.
 

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