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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

Researcher in Otorhinolaryngology advocates education in deafness and hearing loss
2015-12-17

Description: Dr Magteld Smith  Tags: Dr Magteld Smith

Dr Magteld Smith

The annual International Day of Persons with Disabilities falls on 3 December. Statistics reveal that 7.5% of the South African population suffer from some form of physical disability.

More than 17 million people in South Africa are dealing with depression, substance abuse, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia - illnesses that round out the top five mental health diagnoses, according to the Mental Health Federation of South Africa. The South African Federation for Mental Health is the umbrella body for 17 mental health societies and numerous member organisations throughout the country.

On disability, world-renowned author Helen Keller, who was both deaf and blind, once said that the problems that come with being deaf are deeper and more complex than those of blindness, and is a much worse misfortune. For it means the loss of the most vital stimulus - the sound of the voice that brings language, sets thoughts astir, and keeps us in the intellectual company of man.

According to Dr Magteld Smith, lecturer and researcher in the Department of Otorhinolaryngology at the University of the Free State (UFS), hearing loss of any degree at any age can have far-reaching psychological and sociological implications which affect an individual’s day-to-day functioning, and might prevent him or her from reaching their full potential. She says that even though advancements have been made in aiding deaf persons, there’s still considerable room for improvement. She’s making it her mission to bring about changing the stigmatisation around deafness, and the different choices of rehabilitation.

Dr Smith was born with bilateral (both ears) severe hearing loss, and became profoundly deaf, receiving a cochlear implant in 2008. Not letting this hinder her quality of life, she matriculated in 1985 at a School for the Deaf in Worcester. Today she is the only deaf medical-social researcher in South Africa.

Her research focuses on all aspects of deafness and hearing loss. Through first-hand experience, she knows that a loss of hearing can be traumatic as it requires adjustments in many areas of life which affect a person’s entire development. However, she has not let her deafness become a stumbling block. She has become the first deaf South African to obtain two Master’s degrees and a PhD, together with various other achievements.

Her work is aimed at informing and educating people in the medical profession, parents with children, and persons with various degrees and types of hearing loss about the complexities of deafness and hearing loss. She believes that, with the technological advancements that have been made in the world, deaf people can become self-sufficient and independent world changers with much to contribute to humanity.

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