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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

First Dementia Care Mapper in Africa receives international award
2015-11-17

The first Dementia Care Mapper from Africa,
Dr Sanet du Toit.

Photo: iFlair Photography

“In one facility, four elders who needed minimal assistance to eat were provided with an opportunity to sit at a separate table, and enjoy their breakfast as preferred – that is, to spread bread with butter, jam or marmite; to add their own milk and sugar to their tea.”

Dr Sanet du Toit
described a scenario where staff members at an old-age home implemented recommendations she made following an observation she conducted.

“We do not think twice about doing this but, within institutional care settings, these ’normal’ routines are often replaced with practices that could be viewed as ‘time savers’. For example: everyone gets milky, sweet tea to drink,” she explains.

Yet, by creating an environment where the elderly living with dementia were at liberty to determine the amount of milk in their tea, active participation meant an improved well-being.

She was honoured with the International Association of Homes and Services for the Aging (IAHSA) Award for Excellence in Applied Research on 1 September 2015, at a joint conference held by the Aged & Community Services Australia (ACSA) and IAHSA in Perth.

This exceptional Occupational Therapist from the University of the Free State (UFS) emerged as the first Dementia Mapper from Africa. Dementia Care Mapping is a method used internationally to assess with the purpose of improving the quality of care given to residents in institutionalised settings.

The IAHSA award acknowledged her person-centered care training and research in South African residential care facilities while working at the UFS as a senior lecturer from 2003 to 2013. Currently, she is based at the University of Sydney, but remains an affiliated lecturer at the UFS Department of Occupational Therapy.

In 1992, she graduated with a BA in Occupational Therapy at the UFS, and went on to further her studies at various institutions. Also, she is one of the founding directors of the Eden Alternative South Africa, an advocacy for older persons’ rights within old-age homes. Over the years, Dr du Toit has won numerous awards for her research.

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