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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 receives research grant focusing on enablement of non-profit organisations
2011-01-20

 
Prof. Mabel Erasmus

The University of the Free State (UFS) has received a research grant to the value of R1,1 million from the National Research Foundation (NRF) to conduct research on community engagement, with the emphasis on knowledge as enablement – a Non-Profit Organisation (NPO) focus.

This was the first time the NRF had requested applications for research with a focus on community engagement (CE). With the grant, the UFS has become one of the first recipients of a research grant that focuses on community engagement.

The overarching research question that will be dealt with is how Higher Education Institutions (HEI) and the NPO sector can establish long-term, research-based collaborative engagements that will be mutually empowering and enabling through joint, reciprocal knowledge-based activities and capacity building.

The contention that this proposal is based on, is that HEIs have limited knowledge of the NPO sector and thus are unable to be fully responsive to the challenges that NPOs face. What is more, it is very likely that staff and students from HEIs do not have an adequate grasp of the experiential understanding, contextual community knowledge and practical know-how that NPO practitioners have, and hence do not appreciate the crucial contributions that they can make with regard to meaning-making processes aimed at improving some of the harsh South African realities.

According to Prof. Mabel Erasmus, Associate Professor and Head of the university’s Division: Service Learning, which submitted the research proposal to the NRF and is the grant-holder, the university would like the information generated by the research to be beneficial to both HEIs and the NPOs. “Knowledge regarding NPOs, specifically their challenges and information about what they are doing, will be invaluable to HEIs. At the same time, the research must benefit the NPOs with knowledge to improve their practice and strengthen their functioning.

“The research will take place in close collaboration with the NPOs, as their inputs are crucial. The research will thus not be ‘about’ them but ‘with’ them.”

“We do not want to send our students for community-based education or as volunteers to NPOs year after year and it does not mean as much to them as these organisations would hope for. With the research process we would like to strengthen NPOs, to build their capacity and give them our whole-hearted cooperation,” she said.

Funding received from the grant will be applied over a period of three years. Except for the study grants for five Ph.D. students and four master’s students, the grant will further make provision for a number of workshops, a local conference, a publication and presentations at international conferences on this matter. The research team of 22 persons includes academics from other HEIs such as the Central University of Technology, University of Zululand, University of Johannesburg and Monash SA. Several staff members of NPOs also form part of the team, including REACH (Bfn), Childline (FS) and others.

Prof. Erasmus said that the UFS was one of a few institutions that were currently conducting research to this extent on the link between the NPO sector and HEIs within the field of community engagement.
 

Media Release
18 January 2011
Issued by: Lacea Loader
Director: Strategic Communication (actg)
Tel: 051 401 2584
Cell: 083 645 2454
E-mail: news@ufs.ac.za

 

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