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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

Kovsies still enjoy successful exchange opportunity
2010-08-25

 
Students Ian Botha, Lize Swart and SW Meintjies with Prof. Izak Groenewald (second from right) at the O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg upon the student’s recent departure to Virginia Tech. Photo: Supplied

More than a decade ago, the then Chairperson of Free State Agriculture, Piet Gous, in collaboration with the then Dean of the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences at the University of the Free State (UFS), Prof. Piet Wilke, started an exchange initiative which still makes a difference to students’ lives today.

Students at the university get the opportunity to go and study at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) in Blacksburg in the United States of America (USA) during the second semester. During the first semester the UFS then receive American students. Since its inception in 1998, 142 students have already participated in the exchange programme.

“It is not only about six months’ studies at an American university. It is about the expansion of horizons, the creation of new frames of reference and exposure to other cultures and customs in order to attain and experience more life capacity,” says Prof. Izak Groenewald, Director of the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development at the UFS. Prof. Groenewald has acted as coordinator of this student exchange programme since 1997.

According to Prof. Groenewald, the secret of the successful programme rests with the fact that Kovsies pay their tuition and accommodation fees at the UFS as if they were studying here. However, they enjoy the privileges at Virginia Tech. Similarly, the American students pay their corresponding fees at Virginia Tech and then enjoy the privileges offered by the UFS. 

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