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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

Researchers urged to re-emphasise regeneration of grassroots
2013-10-23

23 October 2013

Institutions of higher learning have a critical role to play in the promotion and protection of indigenous knowledge systems. This is according to Dr Mogomme Masoga, UFS alumnus and Senior Researcher with the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA).

Dr Masoga was addressing the 6th annual Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) Symposium at the University of the Free State’s Qwaqwa Campus.

“The time has come for local communities rich with knowledge to be taken seriously by the researchers doing their work in those respective communities,” argued Dr Masoga.

“Power relations between the researcher and the communities involved in the research process should be clarified. The same applies to the ownership and control of knowledge generated and documented in a community.

“There is an increasing need for democratic and participatory development in our communities. This can be achieved by giving primacy to the interests, values and aspirations of the people at large. There must be a radical move from prevailing paradigm of development that suffers from relying on coercion and authoritarianism. There is a need to associate development with social needs. This will give validity and integrity to the local communities, thereby giving confidence to the leaders and their constituencies.”

Dr Masoga said that the time has come for African universities in particular to “de-emphasise factors that monopolise attention today. Factors like debt crisis, commodity prices and foreign investment, among others, must be replaced by emphasis on the regeneration of the grassroots. Many African universities and research institutions have not lived up to their responsibilities as guiding lights to the continent. However, all is not lost.

“The current global race for knowledge works against so-called developing countries, especially in Africa. There is a far greater need to have a code of ethics drawn up for researchers engaging with local communities, to ensure the promotion and protection of indigenous knowledge systems.”

Meanwhile, a cross-section of papers were also delivered during the symposium. These ranged from Moshoeshoe’s lessons in dealing with poverty alleviation as presented by Dr Samuel Mensah, Department of Economics, to indigenous grasses of Qwaqwa by Prof Rodney Moffett, Department of Plant Sciences. Also presenting lectures were Phephani Gumbi, African Languages; Tshele Moloi, School of Mathematics; Natural Sciences and Technology Education and Dr Tom Ashafa (Plant Sciences).

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