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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

Heidedal-based foundation and UFS host inaugural music concert
2015-12-04

ROC children rock in marimba music
Photo: Valentino Ndaba

Reach Our Community (ROC) Foundation in conjunction with the University of the Free State’s Odeion School of Music (OSM) held its first-ever music concert last month. Children who form part of the foundation’s Afterschool Care programme showed their impressive music skills to their parents and guardians in attendance.

ROC provides support to orphaned and vulnerable children from early childhood through to adolescence in the Heidedal community in Bloemfontein. The foundation strives to address the challenges resulting from factors such as poverty, unemployment, HIV/Aids, single parenting, lack of guardianship, and physical and sexual abuse. In the Afterschool Care programme, the children engage in educational, cultural, and recreational activities.

Going the extra mile

Since 2008, the UFS has successfully partnered with ROC through service learning and community engagement in which students from across all seven faculties participate. Two Music Education and Practice students from the OSM took it upon themselves to continue after their curriculum requirements were met.

Amy Viljoen- now a final-year BMus student, together with fellow student, Petre du Plessis, and their lecturer and programme coordinator, Gerda Pretorius, established the music class project in Heidedal in 2014. The students embarked on weekly trips to ROC, and would spend an hour working on the recorders and marimbas with children from ROC.

This year, Viljoen and Kara-Lynn Crankshaw, a final-year BA Music student, spent eleven months teaching the children music practice and theory, culminating in a concert that both the community and students can be proud of.

“I wanted to do something that was not only meant for educational purposes, but to give back to the community,” said Viljoen.

After having to gather extra chairs because of the influx of community members at the ROC hall, the founder, Patrick Kaars, said he had not expected such a turn-out. “It exceeded my expectations, and it was a dream come true. It meant so much to the children to be exposed to music, and to explore their own capabilities and talents.”

More children will learn how to play other instruments. Currently, the instruments used for the children’s training were purchased second-hand in order to cut costs. New music education specialists, who will join the programme in 2016, will also work with Pretorius to gather additional equipment, and compile learning material.

Kaars is also thrilled about the potential expansion to the music group, now that the concert has become an annual event. The OSM is also in the process of establishing a Centre for Music Development at ROC.

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