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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. 


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Grant from the Andrew W Mellon Foundation provides significant boost for graduate and postdoctoral studies in the Humanities
2013-05-19

20 May 2013

The Andrew W Mellon Foundation has made an award of US $500 000 [c. ZAR 4.85 million] over three years to support graduate and postdoctoral studies in the Humanities at the University of the Free State (UFS).

The award will underwrite 20 postgraduate studentships and postdoctoral fellowships, as well as annual postgraduate skills training workshops and a research seminar programme, amongst other initiatives. Already underway following national and international advertisement, the programme has attracted highly qualified young scholars from South Africa, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe, as well as from the United Kingdom and the United States. While their fields of study include history, politics, anthropology and development studies, most of the research projects have an African focus and a marked historical dimension.

Postdoctoral fellows and postgraduate students alike are associates of, or are registered in, the Centre for Africa Studies. Several of them, have already published articles in international refereed journals. Chapters in books, edited collections and single-authored monographs are all in the pipeline.

“The application to the Mellon Foundation was made in the context of UFS' strategic plan and the priority given to the importance of fostering and consolidating postgraduate and postdoctoral research. Together with other funding, this grant gives the university the opportunity to develop graduate studies in the Humanities in such a way that it surpasses many South African universities and approaches that of the best universities in the country,” says Prof Ian Phimister, Senior UFS Research Professor.

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