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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

Professor triumphs at Water Research Commission (WRC) Symposium
2013-12-13

 
Prof Leon van Rensburg

The university’s advancement of research excellence recently found further embodiment in Prof Leon van Rensburg from the Department of Soil- and Crop- and Climate Sciences. His expertise in the water sector resulted in award-winning research.

Prof Van Rensburg received the award for Sustainable Development Solutions 2013 at the Water Research Commission (WRC) Symposium held at the CSIR in Pretoria. The symposium acknowledged local scientific solutions that have had a global impact. Prof Van Rensburg was recognised for his outstanding research guiding the management of salinity under irrigation at farm level in South Africa – ensuring food production. The paper that earned him this honour is entitled “Rainwater harvesting and conservation practices: challenges and opportunities for sustainable land and water use of ‘The Green Village’ in arid to semi-arid climate zones.”

The awards were linked to the WRC’s newly-adopted corporate planning tool named the ‘Knowledge Tree’, guiding the commission’s operations. The ‘Knowledge Tree’ functions as a yardstick with which the WRC measures its impact in essential areas. The presentation of these accolades underscored the importance of water science and water technology in improving the daily reality of people at grassroots level.

Prof Van Rensburg’s research goal is to enhance the efficiency of water usage of crop production systems in both the dryland and irrigation sectors. Part of his latest achievements include being editor for a special edition of the Irrigation and Drainage Journal (2012; vol 61) on rainwater harvesting.

Prof Chris du Preez, co-author of the winning paper, is an expert on soil quality, especially organic matter. He serves as the Head of the Department of Soil, Crop and Climate Sciences and has also acted as President of the Soil Science Society of South Africa. His current research focuses on agricultural land use and soil organic matter changes, soil fertility and fertilisation, and agriculture water quality and usage.

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