By Spencer Feingold

The PepsiCo Foundation has awarded an $18.2 million grant to the humanitarian organization CARE in an effort to combat gender inequality in agriculture and alleviate world hunger.

The program aims to provide five million female farmers worldwide with additional resources and economic support to help them increase crop yields.

“It is part of a broader effort across PepsiCo to really find ways we can contribute to a more sustainable food system,” Erin Thomas, senior director of the PepsiCo Foundation​, told Cheddar on Wednesday.

The funding from the foundation ー the philanthropic arm of the food and beverage conglomerate ー will support CARE’s “She Feeds the World” campaign, which has already reached 50 million female farmers in the developing world. The grant will expand operations in six countries: Egypt, Guatemala, India, Nigeria, Peru, and Uganda.

The program aims to help female farmers “get the resources and training they need to increase their crop yields, access markets, and gain more reliable sources of income," Ramon Laguarta, PepsiCo’s Chairman and CEO, said in a press release. "The PepsiCo Foundation is investing in this initiative because it has the potential to create change at scale."

Despite the leading role women play as food providers around the world, gender inequality in agriculture is a pervasive issue with broad consequences. According to the United Nations, women make up over half of agricultural workers in developing countries but earn significantly less than their male counterparts and work with far fewer resources. Moreover, less than 13 percent of agricultural land is owned by women.

The gender disparity has led to food shortages in many parts of the world; the UN estimates that more than 820 million people are undernourished worldwide.

“If women had the same access to tools and resources, like seeds, financial support, land rights, their yields could actually grow by up to 30 percent and that could reduce hunger by 150 million people,” Thomas said.

The PepsiCo and CARE initiative will provide women with additional training sessions and access to farming technology to increase efficiencies.

“Women farmers possess enormous potential to substantially improve family nutrition and reduce hunger," said Michelle Nunn, CARE's President and CEO, said in a statement.

CARE and PepsiCo are also launching a video series titled "Closing the Crop Gap," which will feature female farmers in India, Egypt, Guatemala, Poland, and the U.S.

For full interview click here.