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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

A real indaba it was
2010-09-07

Pictured from the left, are: Prof. Dennis Francis (Dean), Prof. Rita Niemann (Director: Postgraduate Studies and Research) and Prof. Rob Pattman (Keynote speaker: UKZN).

No expert panels! No rubrics! Only a fair measure of healthy anxiety that goes with public speaking!

These features describe the meeting that staff members from the Faculty of Education recently had at Indaba Lodge on the banks of the Modder River. The purpose of this get-together was to create a time and space where staff members could not only celebrate their own research efforts, but also acknowledge, support and validate one another’s work.

The day kicked off with the dean’s research vision for the faculty. Thereafter seven staff members doing their Ph.D.s were introduced. Their presentations were followed by inputs from the guest speaker, Prof. Rob Pattman from the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN). He congratulated the presenters on their cutting-edge research, their eloquence and the manner in which they managed to communicate complex matters in simple ways. Ideas he shared from his own research on social identities and critical agency (with a focus on gender and race) served to affirm the relevance of the topics presented by the Ph.D. candidates in transforming the education system as well as the South African society as a whole.

A festive lunch, in honour of retiring Prof. Johan van Staden, brought an affective dimension to the Indaba in the form of heart-felt goodbye messages from colleagues who had shared his academic life for more than 20 years.

After lunch five master’s students had the opportunity to share their research in the form of poster presentations. A lively interest among participants and critical, but constructive questions characterised this session. A potpourri session followed, comprising work in progress, completed surveys, research awards and innovative research methods.

The wrap-up by Prof. Dennis in no uncertain terms affirmed that researchers in the Faculty of Education not only crossed the Modder River, but also the proverbial Rubicon on 21 August. It was envisaged that henceforth:
- Supervision will take on a collaborative character.
- Soon a research forum for Ph.D. students and their supervisors will be established where these students and supervisors can start practising their agency.
- Instead of relying on outside experts who come and “tell” faculty staff members what to do, insiders should start building their own vibrant research-based practices by forming reading groups to discuss seminal works (e.g. Foucault and Freire) and research methodologies (e.g. Burke’s Pentad).

The Indaba was aptly concluded by one of the participants who, on behalf of all attendees, thanked and congratulated the dean on the initiative to give impetus to research. Analogous to the 2010 slogan, Feel it, it is here!, he said: “I feel so inspired and empowered, I can almost taste it!”
 

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