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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

Shack study holds research and social upliftment opportunities
2015-02-10

Photo: Stephen Collett

When Prof Basie Verster, retired head of the Department of Quantity Surveying at the University of the Free State (UFS), initiated an alternative form of housing for Johannes - one of his employees - a decision was made to base research on this initiative. This research project in Grasslands, Heidedal focused on the cost and energy efficiency of green and/or sustainable shacks.

Esti Jacobs from the Department of Quantity Surveying, together with an honours student in Quantity Surveying, a master’s student in Architecture, and young professionals at Verster Berry, helped with the project.

The physical goals of the project were to create a structure that is environmentally friendly, and maintains a comfortable interior climate in winter and summer, as well as being cost-effective to erect. The structure also had to be socially acceptable to the family and the community.

“The intention was to make a positive contribution to the community and to initiate social upliftment through this project. Structures such as the ‘green shack’ may serve as an intermediate step to future housing possibilities, since these structures are relatively primitive, but have economic value and could be marketable,” she said.

Esti explains the structure of the building, which consists of gum poles and South African pine bearers, with a timber roof and internal cement block flooring. The building is clad with corrugated iron and has a corrugated iron roof finish. Additional green elements added to the structure were internal Nutec cladding, glasswool insulation in walls, internal gypsum ceiling boards with ‘Think Pink’ insulation, internal dividing wall and door, polystyrene in the floors, and tint on the windows. A small solar panel for limited electricity use (one or two lights and electricity to charge a cellphone) and a Jojo water tank for household consumption by the inhabitants were also installed.

Esti said: “Phase one of the research has been completed. This phase consisted of an investigation into the cost of an alternative form of housing structure (comparing traditional shacks with the planned structure) as well as the construction process of the physical housing structure.

“Phase two of the research, commencing in February 2015, will last for two to three years. This phase will include the installation of temperature and relative humidity logging devices inside the existing traditional shack and the new green shack. The logs will be regularly monitored by the UFS Department of Quantity Surveying and Construction Management.

These data will enable the researchers to measure the differences in comfort levels inside the two different structures. The data, together with other information such as building materials and methods, are then processed by software programs. Through the simulation of different environments, building materials, and alternate forms of energy, software models can be used to come up with conclusions regarding more energy-friendly building materials and methods. This knowledge can be used to improve comfort levels within smaller, low-cost housing units.

The UFS will be working with Prof Jeff Ramsdell of the Appalachian State University in the USA and his team on the second phase of the project.

“This research project is ongoing and will be completed only in a few years’ time,” said Esti.

The results of the research will be published in accredited journals or at international conferences.

 

For more information or enquiries contact news@ufs.ac.za.

 

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