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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

MSc student plans to FEED our hungry planet
2015-01-27

Photo: Hannes Pieterse

Since attending the 2014 Youth Ag-Summit in Canada, Lisa Coetzee – an MSc student in Plant Pathology in the Department of Plant Sciences at our university – developed a plan to address hunger:

FEED – Forum of Education, Empowerment and Development.

Coetzee, together with a junior lecturer at Plant Sciences, Marguerite Westcott, started this student association to tackle the issue of food insecurity head-on.

Education, empowerment and development “are keywords vital to the solutions to poverty. Hunger is an issue which is found in our own homes. One in every four South Africans is food insecure. Hunger kills more people every year than Aids, malaria and TB combined,” says Coetzee.

“This forum allows awareness to be raised about the hunger situation locally and globally. FEED is talking about hunger and it is assisting in reducing it by reaching out to communities which are in need.

“FEED is the generation which is going to make a difference in eradicating hunger,” Coetzee continues. “We want students to think about how they can feed the hungry through what they are studying”. For Coetzee it is a high priority to ensure that the youth are aware of the importance to feed our hungry planet in a sustainable way.

Her philosophy on relieving hunger and increasing food safety is to enhance the efficiency of crop production, ensure crop security and reduce mycotoxins in the food we eat.

During the 2014 summit, Coetzee was elected to represent the African delegates on the Youth Ag Summit Committee. Ever since, she has been enthusiastically active in the agricultural community. As 43% of the globe’s farmers are women, Coetzee also feels she acts as a voice for female farmers in South Africa.

An important lesson Coetzee has learned is that there is power in one person to make a change – that we should start small but think big.

If you would like to get involved in this project, contact Lisa Coetzee on +27(0)51 401 9681 or email coetzeela@ufs.ac.za.

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