The University of Limpopo (UL) has joined hands with the department of science and innovation (DSI) to establish a state-of-the-art African Centre of Excellence in Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) at Turfloop Campus in 2021.
IKS is gaining traction within the science community after years of neglect. The DSI has recently assisted six traditional health practitioners to develop safe products and standardise their traditional medicines for commercialisation as part of mainstreaming the IKS products and innovations.
UL has been roped in to become the DSI IK-based Bio-Innovation Programme because of its rich history and expertise and involvement in the IKS. It is hoped that the experience would come in handy and help to develop value-added commercial products.
The partnership is based on a consortium and collaboration model and involves several key role players such within the sectors. They include indigenous knowledge practitioner organisations, community-based organisations, science councils, academic institutions and public (business) sector.
Dr Hlupheka Chabalala, director of IK-Based Technology Innovation at DSI, welcomed the partnership, saying to have UL as part of the initiative will deliver better outcome because the university is building a reputable profile in IK through its cutting-edge research and innovation capacity. He added that this is essential for knowledge development and community empowerment.
Chabalala said the involvement of UL into the partnership followed a wide consultation on institutional transformation. “It was decided that the University of Limpopo is best suited to be part of this initiative, particularly as it is located in a region that has a large variety of local agricultural biodiversity and unique indigenous knowledge,” explained Chabalala.
He added that UL is also better positioned to take a lead in promoting African medicines and nutraceutical (food and nutrition) research for agro-processing and entrepreneurship in the country.
In the long-term, the idea is for the partnership to culminate in the establishment of a World Health Organisation–African Union Commission (AFRO) Centre of Excellence, which is earmarked for the documentation of research and commercialisation of IKS.
Associate Professor in the department of chemistry at UL, Winston Nxumalo, reflected further on the significance of the envisaged centre. He said it will provide scientific evidence on the composition, effectiveness and safety of the IKS products.
Added Nxumalo: “With better laboratories, instruments and research personnel, UL is better equipped with facilities needed for such a centre.” He said that having such a centre of excellence in Limpopo Province, which is rich in biodiversity, will help grow the socio-economic patterns in the province as commercialisation of IKS by local entrepreneurs will be supported.
“Rich biodiversity of medicinal plants with many IKS holders practising is located in all parts of the province. Working together with these IKS holders and entrepreneurs will result in the formulation of projects that may lead to the development and commercialisation of IKS-based products,” observed Nxumalo.
The department of research administration and development at UL will also lend a hand by way of offering technical and administrative support services. These range from development of the business plan, intellectual property (IP) of products, securing funding for large scale production and commercialisation.