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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

Innovation the focus of 28th Sophia Gray Memorial Lecture
2016-09-06

Description: Stratford furniture design Tags: Stratford furniture design

Stratford never lost his passion for designing
furniture. Pictured here is some of his furniture
exhibited at the Oliewenhuis Art Museum.
Photo: Francois van Vuuren: iFlair Photography

Al Stratford, designer, inventor and architect, presented the 28th Sophia Gray Memorial Lecture on 25 August at the Reservoir at the Oliewenhuis Art Museum in Bloemfontein. The event, hosted by the Department of Architecture at the University of the Free State, was also the opening of an exhibition of Stratford’s work.

In his career of 40 years, Stratford has patented many products and won several awards in industrial design and architecture. He is known in South Africa for his development of innovative building technology such as the Winblok Precast Concrete Window System. In 2009 and 2010, he also served as president of the South African Institute of Architects.

The title of his lecture was: Reductive Innovation in Architecture. Throughout his career, Stratford endeavoured – through his designs and inventions – to apply the principle of “reduction” to the building material he used and technology he examined.

Stratford designs and builds smart buildings
Stratford says a home is the paradigm of self-expression. His career as architect started with the building of five houses in Gonubie, near East London. Everything he knew about architecture at that stage, he had taught himself by reading on the subject at the local library. Later on, he achieved great heights in his career by designing and building, among others, the Stratford Guesthouse; the sustainable and resourcefully designed campus buildings for the University of Fort Hare (an institutional building not utilising any electrical air-conditioning); the Edenvale Baptist Church; and a community hall.

His technology is widely used in the building industry

“The arrogance in me gets humiliated when I
see what other people and God has done.”


His technical drawing skills, acquired at an early age during his training as motor mechanic, are still practised years later, particularly in his inventions. Stratford is the inventor of technology commonly used in the building industry today. Of these, the Winblok window system which he patented in 1981, is one of his best known patents. The use of these windows is characteristic of many of the buildings he designed and built. Other technology he invented and patented, includes the Winstep stairs, the Windeck flooring system, and the StratFlex furniture technology.

Furniture designs win him awards
He likes to quote architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe: “A chair is a very difficult object. A skyscraper is easier.” Stratford started designing and manufacturing his own furniture and never lost this passion. In 2013, he won the Innovation Award at the Design Indaba for his “flat pack” furniture technology.

The humble Stratford – designer, inventor, industrialist, and architect – says he is simply playing around with God’s creation. “The arrogance in me gets humiliated when I see what other people and God has done.”

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