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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

Researchers explore gender-based violence at schools in Southern Africa
2014-10-17

Prof Dennis Francis
Photo: René-Jean van der Berg


Violence in schools, especially gender violence, has been a much explored and debated topic. But researchers at the University of the Free State (UFS) are now also exploring the link between gender, diversity and violence in schools in Southern Africa.

This study – a first of its kind – received funding from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and will investigate how the perception of ‘different’ is a contributing factor to violence in schools.

This UNESCO-funded study, in collaboration with Hivos, GALA and the Government of the Netherlands, will involve schools in Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland.

Prof Dennis Francis, UFS Dean of Education and principal researcher in this study, says children and youth around the world are exposed to violence in and around educational settings. “This does not only undermine a child’s rights to quality education, but also the capacity of the education sector to train future citizens who will respect each other regardless of differences.”

Prof Francis says although girls are the most vulnerable targets of GBV, boys can also be targets, as evidence reveals that many children and youths who are perceived as different in terms of gender, are often victims of violence in school.

“Education is the most significant means of fostering social inclusion, promoting individual rights and realising the full potential of all young people, including those perceived as different. This project is aimed at assisting government, policy makers and professionals in the education sector, as well as civil society organisations and other key stakeholders in Southern Africa to create educational policies and practices that promote safe schools for all youths.”


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