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Mandela Day ignites generosity and action. However, often, as quickly as the impetus to give arises, so does it pass. How does a non-profit take the energy of the day and convert it into long-term tangible impact? This was the question of SA Harvest, a non-profit organisation that redistributes surplus food to ensure hungry and malnourished South Africans receive nutritious meals. Their ultimate mission is to end hunger in South Africa through a combination of food rescue, technology and systemic change.
Millions of South Africans face hunger daily. One in four South African children are malnourished to the point that they are stunted. Urgent action is needed to address this crisis and with this in mind, the SA Harvest team wanted to do more than impact Mandela Day alone. However, the day was approaching quickly. They needed a fast solution. They wanted to use the day to launch a platform for change that aids in ending hunger. They consulted their technology partner, Synthesis Software Technologies, and had a hackathon to determine their next steps.
SA Harvest decided the best way forward was through a petition that would be sent to the government. However, no ordinary petition would suffice to address a problem of this magnitude. We, the people of South Africa, demand that a commission is created within the next 90 days to focus on creating meaningful and sustainable solutions to the serious problems in the food ecosystem, with specific priority on the implementation.
The solution would need to be easily shared to create collective action, the platform housing it would have to scale for mass use and instead of names, it would be a petition of images of the citizens of South Africa (citizens standing up for citizens). Within two weeks, SA Harvest and Synthesis had created the solution using AWS Cloud. The petition was called the Union Against Hunger. Users could log onto the platform and upload their image with their name and their image as their voice against hunger. They could then share the page on social media and WhatsApp. They could also change their Facebook image with a border #UnionAgainstHunger. Finally, they would see their image, with other like-minded South Africans, in a collage that created an image of Mandela. This would act as a symbol of South Africans uniting to create the future Mandela imagined. “We built, tested and deployed the platform in a mere two weeks. For a project of this scope, this is an exceptionally fast turnaround, but we would not let the SA Harvest team down. We were up and ready for them on Mandela Day,” explains Synthesis Solutionist Jonathan Jacobs. The team built and deployed a serverless React App using AWS Amplify with S3 for storage of the images. The platform had to allow users to easily upload images. It then had to compress and sort them into the picture of Mandela. The number of image uploads was unknown, so the platform had to be built to scale and this is where AWS made that easy. AWS Lambda was used to compress the images and API Gateway was used to upload and fetch the images to view. Dynamo DB was used to store user details and petition sign ups.
SA Harvest had a customised platform up and running for Mandela Day. It was designed by teams with expertise in both user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) that ensured that the call to action on the day was as easy as possible to complete. The platform allows for the easy upload of images and sharing of the campaign to assist in the spreading of the message. The platform is intuitive and completion of the campaign can be done in under a minute to encourage petition completion and sharing.
Most importantly, the platform could handle the spikes in use on the day and did not go down so there was nothing interrupting signing the petition and making the voices of South Africans heard on the day and thereafter. The user information is easy to retrieve so SA Harvest can share this with the government. It is also secure, with compliance with the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA). “It has been a privilege working with SA Harvest to create a solution. They have a passion and in-depth knowledge of food rescue and redistribution. Using technology to help solve this challenge and other highlights the potential of technology to quickly and sustainably help society,” concludes Jacobs.