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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

Like Idols for scientists
2014-04-10

Kovsie student and scientist Karabelo Moloantoa recently represented the Free State in the South African finals of the FameLab competition during the Sci-Fest in Grahamstown.

Karabelo is a 24-year-old student doing his master’s in Biotechnology. He completed his Bachelor’s degree in Medical Microbiology, as well as his Honours degree in Biochemistry at Kovsies. His research is focused on Bioremediation of mine waste waters.

“FameLab is like the scientists Idols taking place annually,” says Karabelo.

“In the competition we are given three minutes to explain a science aspect to a non-science audience. There are 25 countries that participate. South Africa is the only African country participating.”

“I was called by one of my lecturers an hour before the local competition took place at the National Museum in Bloemfontein. I was actually still tired from playing volleyball the night before,” he explains. “I was unprepared and without slides, but I did my presentation.”

This was the first year Karabelo entered FameLab and although he was somewhat unprepared for the local competition in Bloemfontein, he was nominated to represent the Free State in Grahamstown at the Sci-Fest event. From the 18 semifinalists, Karabelo qualified to go the finals where the 9 finalists were competing to represent South Africa in the United Kingdom for the international finals.

“I did not win the UK trip, but I made it to the finals, which is an achievement as half of the semi-finalists could not make it to the finals,” says Karabelo.

“I feel like I have done well to represent the university and the province as a whole. It was amazing to speak in front of more than 800 people, delivering my presentation. I learnt a lot and improved my skills of communicating scientific aspects. I will definitely enter again next year.”

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