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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

Up to 60% of students do not have enough to eat
2013-11-15

 

15 November 2013

A report of the University of the Free State has revealed the shocking statistics that almost two-thirds of the students at the university don’t have enough money to buy food, and suffer from hunger during terms.

The study, conducted internally by the university’s Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, was a response to a growing international concern that students worldwide were not getting enough to eat. While studies were conducted in the USA and Australia, no similar research has been done in South Africa.

“There have been many studies on the impact of poor nutrition on school kids,” says Dr Louise van den Berg, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, “but almost no research on university students. South Africa is, overall, a food-insecure country, and the university wanted to establish how widespread this problem is among our students.”

The reasons given by students invariably referred to a lack of money, as many students were also supporting families. Some students admitted they lacked the knowledge to feed themselves properly, some admitted to borrowing money to buy food, and some even admitted to stealing food to survive.

“This research has confirmed something we have suspected for a long time,” Dr van den Berg states.

A number of students disclosed that they were reluctant to resort to the university feeding scheme, as they were ashamed to admit they did not have money to buy food.

This study is the first of its kind in South Africa, and underlines the fact that tertiary students are particularly vulnerable when it comes to food security. Often a student has to juggle their studies with their role as breadwinner.

A tiny ray of hope to students who find themselves as food insecure, is the No Student Hungry Programme that offers a food bursary to qualifying students.

This programme, initially established by Prof Jonathan Jansen, UFS Vice-Chancellor and Rector, and now managed by Grace Jansen and Karen Buys, offers a small allowance of about R30 per day to hungry students with an average academic achievement of 60% and above. This criterion discourages entitlement thinking and builds a strong sense of responsibility on the part of those who benefit from the food bursary.

Melanie, a second-year Geography and Environmental Management student, as well as a single mother, is a beneficiary of the NSH Programme. “This bursary helps me to get a balanced meal every day. It is one less worry for me. I dream of completing my studies so that I can be independent and provide my son with the life he deserves.”

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