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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

Three minutes for research
2015-09-07

When you have only three minutes in which to explain an 80 000-word thesis, every second counts. This is what researchers from across the country realised during the first national round of South Africa’s Three-minute thesis competition.

The University of the Free State (UFS) Postgraduate School hosted this international competition on the Bloemfontein Campus, where master’s and doctoral students from 12 universities participated. During the competition, each researcher had to give a presentation on his/her research within three minutes.

Dr Henriette van den Berg, Director of the UFS’s Postgraduate School, and presenter of the two-day competition, said the competition is the ideal platform to teach researchers how to become effective research communicators.

“It is important that researchers should learn to communicate the essence of their research to audiences that aren’t necessarily specialists in the field. They should also be able to emphasise how their research contributes to the success and well-being of communities. Researchers often have to explain to persons who aren’t specialists in their specific research area the reasons why it is important to fund the research, for example, or during a work interview. They should be able to convey the essence of their research effectively in a very short time.”

The 3MT competition, which originated at the University of Queensland in Australia, has in 2010 developed into an international trend since its inception. Currently, the 3MT is presented in Australia, the USA, and the UK.

For the competition, participants are given just three minutes to explain their research. In this time, they have to explain the problem and the methodology, as well as why this research is important. Participants are allowed to make use of only one piece of static imaging material for support.

A panel of judges from the participating universities were selected to assess each presentation, based on how well participants expressed themselves in such a short time, and on their choice of imagery.

Gavin Robinson from the University of Johannesburg, Cameron McIntosh, and Ingrid Alleman, both from the UFS, were the respective winners in the categories for doctoral and master’s students.

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