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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. 


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UFS chemist invited by UNESCO to present lecture at World Science Forum in Budapest
2015-12-07

From the left are: Dr Jean-Paul Ngome Abiaga from UNESCO, France; Abdoulaye Ibrahim, also from UNESCO in France; and Truidie Venter, a young scientist from the Department of Chemistry at the UFS.
Photo: Supplied

Dr Truidie Venter, a young scientist from Inorganic Chemistry in the Department of Chemistry at the University of the Free State (UFS), returned recently from presenting a lecture at the 7th World Science Forum, held in Budapest, Hungary. She was one of the few young researchers world-wide who were invited to attend the forum.

In her capacity as a young female researcher from Africa, Truidie was invited by UNESCO to present her views on science in diplomacy at this event. Her talk focused on collaboration between researchers from different countries, and the challenges faced by young researchers in Africa, and served to initiate discussions between young researchers concerning international, interdisciplinary scientific cooperation.

The Science Forum, an international conference dedicated to science and knowledge, was held in Budapest from 4-7 November 2015. This interdisciplinary gathering is supported by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the International Council for Science (ICSU), and other partners, and is aimed at providing an occasion for representatives of science, politics, international organisations, industrial and financial decision makers, international science forums, and science academies to meet and exchange views.

More than nine hundred delegates from 108 countries took part in this event. The speakers included Her Royal Majesty Princess Sumaya Bint El Hassan, President of the Royal Scientific Society of Jordan, Dr Irina Bokova, the Director-General of UNESCO, Prof Sir Peter Gluckman, first Chief Science Advisor to the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Prof Ene Ergma, former President of the Riigikogu (Estonian Parliament), and Ms Naledi Pandor, Minister of Science and Technology of South Africa.

At the conclusion of the forum, a declaration was accepted regarding the renewal of the scientific community’s commitment to the responsible and ethical use of scientific knowledge in addressing the grand challenges of humankind. This declaration addressed the headings of climate change, new sustainable development paths, disaster risk reduction, scientific advice for policies, international collaboration for capacity-building and mobilisation in the developing world, and balanced investment in science.

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