Safe Farming: An innovation in technology
WRITTEN BY RICHARD CHOWNING
Africa's small scale farmers place all their hopes of harvest on rain. With the recent changes in weather patterns many of them have experienced low or no yields at all from hundreds of hours back aching labour in their fields. Some become discouraged and cultivate less of their land. That is all changing for a growing number of Kenyan farmers, thanks to an innovative insurance scheme called Kilimo Salama, which is Swahili for "safe farming".
The scheme is an example of the marriage of two essential components of modern development in Africa – technology and partnership.
Kilimo Salama is a crop insurance scheme put together by UAP Insurance Company of Kenya, Safaricom Ltd. (a telecommunications company), and two crop input providers, MEA Fertilizers and Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (a seed company). It covers farmers who grow maize, wheat, beans, sorghum and potatoes.
Overhead costs would normally prohibit insurance companies from offering small scale farmers crop coverage. Sending agents into the field to enrolfarmers, filling out and filing the paperwork, then resending agents into the field to complete and process claims would cost more than the $10 fee of the typical minimal coverage. With the mass availability of cell phones in Kenya and elsewhere in Africa they can now offer insurance that could very well increase production and income for the farmers.
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In the Kilimo Salama pay as you plant system, a shop owner is supplied a cell phone. When a farmer buys seed or fertiliser and wishes to purchase insurance, the shop owner scans the barcode on the products, collects an additional 5 percent of the retail purchase and the seed and/or fertiliser company chips in another 5 percent. The payment is sent to the insurance company via the phone as well.
The weather situation is monitored by 40 small weather stations that Kilimo Salama has installed throughout Western Kenya and parts of the Rift Valley where the insurance is currently being offered. If rains fail, or are too great, payments are automatically made to account applications the farmers have installed on their cell phones.
As with all innovation, adoption of Kilimo Salama is slow, yet 25,000 Kenyan farmers have taken advantage of the system so far. There is a Swahili proverb that says "Baada ya dhiki faraja" (which means “After hardship, comes relief”). And so it did for 1,400 farmers who received payouts in 2011 when the rains were not sufficient in their areas.
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GfK and VMware: Innovating together on hybrid cloud
GfK has been the global leader in data and analytics for more than 85 years, supplying its clients with optimised decision inputs.
In its capacity as a strategic and technical partner, VMware has been walking GfK along its digital transformation path for over a decade.
“We are a demanding and singularly dynamic customer, which is why a close partnership with VMware is integral to the success of everyone involved,” said Joerg Hesselink, Global Head of Infrastructure, GfK IT Services.
Four years ago, the Nuremberg-based researcher expanded its on-premises infrastructure by introducing VMware vRealize Automation. In doing so, it laid a solid foundation, resulting in a self-service hybrid-cloud environment.
By expanding on the basis of VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management, GfK has given itself a secure infrastructure and reliable operations by efficiently operating processes, policies, people and tools in both private and public cloud environments.
One important step for GfK involved migrating from multiple cloud providers to just a single one. The team chose VMware.
“VMware is the market leader for on-premises virtualisation and hybrid-cloud solutions, so it was only logical to tackle the next project for the future together,” says Hesselink.
Migration to the VMware-based environment was integrated into existing hardware simply and smoothly in April 2020. Going forward, GfK’s new hybrid cloud model will establish a harmonised core system complete with VMware Cloud on AWS, VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management and a volume rising from an initial 500 VMs to a total of 4,000 VMs.
“We are modernising, protecting and scaling our applications with the world’s leading hybrid cloud solution: VMware Cloud on AWS, following VMware on Google Cloud Platform,” adds Hesselink.
The hybrid cloud-based infrastructure also empowers GfK to respond to new and future projects with astonishing agility: Resources can now be shifted quickly and easily from the private to the public cloud – without modifying the nature of interaction with the environment.
The gfknewron project is a good example – the company’s latest AI-powered product is based exclusively on public cloud technology. The consistency guaranteed by VMware Cloud on AWS eases the burden on both regular staff and the IT team. Better still, since the teams are already familiar with the VMware environment, the learning curve for upskilling is short.
One very important factor for the GfK was that VMware Cloud on AWS constituted an investment in future-proof technology that will stay relevant.
“The new cloud-based infrastructure comprising VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation forges a successful link between on-premises and cloud-based solutions,” says Hesselink. “That in turn enables GfK to efficiently develop its own modern applications and solutions.
“In market research, everything is data-driven. So, we need the best technological basis to efficiently process large volumes of data and consistently distill them into logical insights that genuinely benefit the client.
“We transform data and information into actionable knowledge that serves as a sustainable driver of business growth. VMware Cloud on AWS is an investment in a platform that helps us be well prepared for whatever the future may hold.”