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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

Postgraduates’ new Kovsies home
2013-05-10

 
Some of the guests attending the launch, included from left: Prof Driekie Hay, Vice-Rector: Academic, Dr Henriette van den Berg, Director: Postgraduate School and Prof Corli Witthuhn, Vice-Rector: Research.
10 May 2013
Photo: Johan Roux

Postgraduate students and their academic 'parents' at the University of the Free State (UFS) now have a dedicated physical, emotional and electronic space to provide for their specialised needs in order to further promote research excellence at the UFS.

The university's Postgraduate School was launched in May 2011, but ventured further in the quest to fulfil and expand its mandate with new initiatives. These different aspects of the school were launched on Wednesday 8 May 2013 in the CR Swart Auditorium on the Bloemfontein Campus. The postgraduate strategy, postgraduate prospectus, the website and the headquarters of the Postgraduate School in the Johannes Brill Building were all unveiled and launched.

Prof Driekie Hay, Vice-Rector: Academic, who was a major driving force behind the formation of the Postgraduate School, during her address at the opening emphasised the multifaceted and unique relationships which often exist between students and supervisors.

Prof Hay, who has a distinguished academic background in postgraduate teaching, made plain her expectations for the Postgraduate School. She said it aims to "create an intellectual space for postgraduate students and supervisors" in order to produce world-class intellectuals at this university.

She said the school will empower both students who often don't know what to expect from supervision, as well as supervisors who often lack supervision skills. Through this it will be possible to create healthy, productive relationships between the distinct pairs in often misunderstood, unbalanced and intricate interactions.

Dr Henriette van den Berg, Director of the Postgraduate School, introduced the strategic plan of the school and emphasised the great strides that have already been made and what still needs to be done at the UFS in terms of postgraduate teaching. According to her, the Postgraduate School aims towards "holistic development of postgraduate students with transferable skills," through a multi-level and institution-wide approach at the university.

"Our aim is to develop a one-step service for postgraduate students, involving all the different stakeholders," she said.

The new Postgraduate School website was also showcased during the event. Reachable through a number of avenues on the main website, the site offers a digital version of the Johannes Brill Building. Brimming with features catering specifically for local, international, current and prospective students, the website provides crucial information.

The Johannes Brill Building's refurbished interior, with staff offices, seminar rooms and social spaces, were also showcased to UFS' staff and students. The initial phase of the Supervisors' Wall of Fame was also unveiled. According to Dr van den Berg , the wall will after completion bestow much-deserved praise on a hand-picked group of 60 supervisors who have respectively been responsible for more than 300 and more than 500 successful PhD and master's candidates over the past decade.

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