Motivated by CPUT’s resolve to conduct research that seeks to address society’s challenges, CPUT academics are collaborating with herbalists to validate their work.
Prof Learnmore Kambizi, a lecturer in the Department of Horticultural Sciences, is leading a team of academics and postgraduate students that will help the herbalists establish and maintain herbal gardens as well as cultivate some medicinal plant species that would not ordinarily grow in the Western Cape.
They aim to do this done through hydroponics and tissue culture techniques available at CPUT.
Kambizi was invited recently to speak at a well-attended seminar convened by the Western Cape Inyanga Forum in Mfuleni, where areas of co-operation between Cape Nature, the Department of Health, academic researchers, local authorities and registered Traditional Medical Practitioners were discussed.
He says the academics decided to work with herbalists as they are custodians of Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS), which they, the academics, intend to document to ensure that such valuable knowledge is preserved for future generations.
To sustain this research project and support postgraduate training he has been awarded funding to the tune of R1.5 million for three years by the National Research Foundation (NRF).
“We conduct a wide array of bio-assays on various medicinal plants (both pure and crude extracts) to assess their curing potential and toxicity,” he adds.
Steven Mapfumo, a doctoral candidate involved in the project, says the link between academic work and IKS is very important. “Western medicine is marketed as the cleanest and most effective medicine, but previous generations, which relied on plants lived longer when compared to the current generation.”
Sibusiso Xego, another PhD candidate, says her passion for herbs was inspired by growing up in a home where there were traditional healers. “We are taking the knowledge from the community to the lab and from the lab back to the community.”
Written by Kwanele Butana
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