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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

Prof Johan Spies learns about much more than genetics in Argentina
2014-04-23


People who attended the course enjoyed Argentina and its traditions very much.

Prof Johan Spies from the Department of Genetics visited Argentina, where he and Dr Carlos Acuna (Universidad Nacional del Nordeste, Corrientes, Argentina) presented a course for doctoral students and staff of Cerzos-Conicet Bahia Blanca (something like the equivalent of South Africa’s NRF) and Universidad Nacional del Sur, Bahia Blanca. Prof Spies presented chromosomal evolution and its effect on fertility, while Dr Acuna took care of apomixis.

Bahia Blanca is a city with a population of almost the same as that of Bloemfontein. The city lies at the mouth of the Naposta River, which almost forms a delta where it flows into the sea. Bahia Blanca (white bay) derives its name from the salt deposits that lends a white colour to the beaches.

The people are very friendly and one soon learns to extend a long arm in greeting. Otherwise you are stuck with an ‘Ola’ while men and women alike will grab even a complete stranger to plant a kiss on your cheek. For people who places great value on personal space, this friendly gesture is not always as welcome!

Barbeque is a choice dish and is usually in the form of beef rib. “It was great (especially if you shut your eyes and ignore the scrumptious fat and future heart attacks)! With the rib they usually had blood sausage and very tasty pork sausage on the grid. Everywhere people are sipping, through a silver straw, their ‘mate’ (pronounce maty), a type of tea made from the leaves and stems of Yerba paraguariensis. It is generally drunk from a special calabash ‘cup’ through a silver straw, which also serves as sift to keep the leaves from your mouth. The calabash is usually passed from one person to another, with each person taking a sip from the brew!  It is even passed around in class!  Another thing in conflict with the upbringing I received from my mother (as is the cup at communion)!,” says Prof Spies.

“My short visit also taught me that the Argentinians are a proud nation that often faced adversity in the past. Nevertheless, they do not try to change their past. Street names even refer to dates from their past when, for example, they were attacked by England (in 1807). Only the almost 30 000 people who disappeared under the military regime, are rarely talked about!,” says Prof Spies.

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