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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 will increase its volume of quality research
2009-11-25

 
From the left are, seated: Prof. Alice Pell, Vice-Provost: International Relations at Cornell University in the USA and Prof. Jonathan Jansen, Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the UFS; standing: Prof. Ezekiel Moraka, Vice-Rector: External Relations at the UFS, and Prof. David Wolfe from Cornell University during the signing of a memorandum of agreement between the two institutions.
Photo: Stephen Collett

The University of the Free State (UFS) is taking its research serious and is therefore going to increase its volume of quality research. This includes the production of quality scholarly books in the humanities and social sciences.

This was said by Prof. Jonathan Jansen, Rector and Vice-Chancellor, at the launch of the Strategic Academic Cluster initiative of the University on the Main Campus in Bloemfontein last night.

“We are going to produce the kind of research that is associated with scholarships. New models of training, new standards of performance and the introduction of an accelerated Vice-Chancellor’s Prestige Scholars’ Programme are among the initiatives that will be introduced. These are all aimed at boosting our university’s research performance,” said Prof. Jansen.

Another strategy to boost research performance at the UFS is the search for 25 leading professors to be appointed across the disciplines, but especially in the social sciences, education and the humanities. These positions have already been advertised and will be phased in with the goal of achieving equity and excellence in the academic and research profile of the UFS. “We’ve had an overwhelming response to the advertisements from local academics as well as those abroad,” said Prof. Jansen.

Each of the six Cluster Directors gave a short presentation of its aim and focus areas during last night’s dinner. These Clusters will in future direct the University’s research endeavours. It represents a move from a fragmented to a more focused approach to research development at the UFS.

The UFS also signed a memorandum of agreement with Cornell University (USA) last night. The guest speaker, Prof. Alice Pell, Vice-Provost: International Relations at Cornell University and member of the UFS’s International Advisory Board, said that, just as the cluster research teams need representatives from different disciplines, universities need diverse partners to recognise their potential fully. Collaborating with partners with ‘fresh eyes’ that have different cultural perspectives, access to different technologies and partners with different priorities can have important implications in the research and education provided by the UFS and Cornell,” she said.

“The interdisciplinary approach adopted by the UFS in developing the Strategic Academic Clusters seems likely to provide students with the intellectual frameworks and research tools that they need to address the problems in society,” she said.

“The most important issues facing the USA and South Africa are similar, namely how to effect the social transformation that will provide equal opportunities to all of our citizens. South Africa, Brazil, India and the USA share strong commitments to democracy, to overcoming our dark histories of religious and racial discrimination and to sustainable economic development without adverse impacts on our planet. We at Cornell are excited about the opportunity to work with the UFS on all of the clusters, but we are particularly looking forward to learning more about social transformation,” said Prof. Pell.

Media release
Issued by: Lacea Loader
Deputy Director: Media Liaison
Tel: 051 401 2584
Cell: 083 645 2454
E-mail: loaderl.stg@ufs.ac.za  
24 November 2009

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