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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

Two degrees in three years for former teacher
2013-12-17

Jacqui Middleton

When Jacqui Middleton entered university in 2011, she did so alongside her daughter, both women enrolling for their first-year studies at the University of the Free State. Three years later and the mother of three have completed two degrees – a double feat achieved with distinction.

Middleton, a former teacher, will receive a BA degree in Corporate and Marketing Communications at the April 2014 graduation ceremony and a master’s degree in Sustainable Agriculture at the June graduation ceremony. With these two qualifications in the bag, Middleton will pursue her studies with a BCom Honours degree next year, as well as a PhD degree in Sustainable Agriculture.

“It was my first full-time studies since 1988,” says Middleton. “I was a teacher for 22 years and my husband kept saying that I needed to get out of the classroom and into the corporate world. I was reluctant because I was so passionate about education and my children were still at school.”

Things changed when Prof Jonathan Jansen, Vice-Chancellor and Rector of the UFS, visited the Ikanyegeng Primary and High School in Jacobsdal – where she was a teacher – to deliver a motivational talk. Middleton approached Prof Jansen about a bursary. The next year, with the support of her family, she moved to Bloemfontein and stayed on campus studying for two degrees.

“For me it was a major step of faith because we were relying on my salary and I had to give that up to study, so we had to believe there is something bigger beyond the three-year period.”

Something bigger definitely awaited. Her study record of the last three years reflects a dedicated student who passed most of her subjects with marks higher than 80%. 

With her new qualification, Middleton will follow a career in agriculture and farming with her husband. ”I am still passionate about education, but now I am passionate about educating farmers to assist with the land reform process. Land reform is crucial for food security in our country and at the moment we need more success stories of black farmers moving from emerging to commercial farming. I believe that whatever you studied in life should not be wasted.”

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