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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

New digital planetarium first of its kind for Sub-Saharan Africa
2013-10-10

Mr Andrew Johnson, Sky-Skan engineer, explains how the dataprojector of the new digital planetarium functions.
10 October 2013

The University of the Free State (UFS) is the first in the world to boast a modern digital planetarium which was erected within an existing observatory.

It is also the first planetarium of its kind for Sub-Saharan Africa.

“What makes the project unique is the fact that we convert the existing observatory structure into a modern digital planetarium. It hasn’t been done anywhere else,” says Andrew Johnson, engineer at Sky-Skan, the company supplying the equipment and also installing it.

Andrew has worked on similar projects, with his company installing digital planetariums around the world.

What makes the planetarium so special is the fact that it offers visitors an inclusive experience.

“Previously visitors could only watch projected stars and constellations, but with the digital planetarium they can now experience a journey through space which feels very close to reality.”

Andrew points out that, apart from stargazing and travelling through space, the digital planetarium allows the audience to visit planets, explore the secrets of the oceans or even organs in the human body.

The planetarium will also be used for concerts, state-of-the-art presentations, theatre productions, as well as meetings, conferences and exhibitions.

The auditorium can seat approximately 90 adults or 120 children.

The digital dome that was recently fitted into the existing observatory structure, is a 12-metre seamless aluminium screen complemented by a powerful surround-sound system and multiple data projectors from Sky-Skan. This results in an immersive experience of the digital universe, as well as the recreation of the macro and micro cosmos an a variety of other environments.

The planetarium will be officially opened on Friday 1 November 2013 by Derek Hanekom, Minister of Science and Technology. Prof Matie Hoffman from the Department of Physics at the UFS is delighted at this visit from Minister Hanekom.

“This recognition and national interest demonstrates the importance and contribution of the first digital planetarium in Sub-Saharan Africa to science and astronomy.  It is also evidence that a facility like this is important for the training of the next generation of scientists.”

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