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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

Digital Storytelling empowers and liberates students
2014-10-17

In January 2014, Jode Brexa, an American Fulbright scholar, came to our university and moved into the guest room at Welwitschia residence.

It so happened that Brexa and Elize Rall, residence head of Welwitschia – better known as Wel-Wel – started talking about digital storytelling. Brexa’s Digital Storytelling project captured Rall’s imagination. Shortly thereafter, Brexa convinced the RC members of Wel-Wel to participate in the project.

Digital storytelling is, on the most basic level, the use of computer-based resources to tell stories. The idea is to combine the art of storytelling with multimedia – including graphics, photos, text, audio, image and/or music.

The Wel-Wel students were taught storytelling skills and each student’s unique story was recorded and edited. It was so successful that they then showed their stories to the Rector and Dean of Students. Brexa will now – with their permission – take their stories to America with her, where she will share it with her community.

During the weekend of 10–12 October 2014, the RC of Wel-Wel introduced 12 learners, who are currently in Grade 10 at the Christiaan Liphoko School, to the project. The learners stayed in the gazellie for the weekend and, in the course of a few days, learned how much power is locked up in their personal stories. They learned that everyone’s story has the power to inspire and empower.

Wel-Wel has been involved in various outreach projects to the community. However, this was the first time that Wel-Wel literally brought the community to their doorstep. This is also not a charitable project. It is uplifted students reaching out to the youth to empower them in order to empower others in turn.

Meanwhile, Brexa also linked the project to the university’s Schools Partnership Project. The programme works through mentorship programmes to uplift previously disadvantaged schools. Hands were also taken with Columba Leadership NGO – financed by Old Mutual.

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