PepsiCorps volunteers work in rural South Africa to improve living conditions for disadvantaged women and children.

At PepsiCo and its philanthropic arm, the PepsiCo Foundation, we’ve had some wonderful opportunities to work and partner with organizations that are dedicated to promoting the economic and social wellbeing of women and girls around the world.

One of our newest partners is Heifer International South Africa, which is closely linked to Heifer International, an Arkansas-based organization with a global presence.  The Heifer mission is to “work with communities to end world hunger and poverty and to care for the Earth.”

This month, eight PepsiCo associates – all participants in the company’s PepsiCorps program –traveled to Limpopo, the northernmost province of South Africa, to help Heifer begin the Blouberg Project, a sustainable agriculture program designed to improve living conditions for some of the region’s poorest residents, and to help make them self-reliant 

The Limpopo province suffers from high unemployment and is heavily affected by HIV/AIDS.  Many of the region’s men have died from AIDS or moved to other parts of the country in search of jobs.  “The wives and children they leave behind, many with HIV/AIDS, very often don’t have the necessary skills and education to be employed,” said John Allen of Heifer International South Africa.  “So we help by training them to become better farmers.”

The Blouberg Project will provide them the training, skills and resources necessary to become more productive farmers and keep livestock.  “Many program participants will be given seeds and livestock, such as goats, chickens, cows, sheep or pigs. The vegetables, meat, milk or eggs they produce will provide much-needed nutrients, especially for those suffering from HIV/AIDS,” said Allen. “Some of the younger members of the community will be trained in beekeeping to produce honey.”

“Our goal is to get them beyond subsistence to a livelihood or commercial level where they can sell products from their livestock and vegetable gardens to their neighbors and local businesses,” said Allen. “This will allow them to bring in an income, which they can use to send their children to school, and invest back into their farms to increase production and employ other people in the community.”

After three years, Allen says they hope 2,100 families have become more resilient, sustainable and productive farmers and are collectively generating income from their farming activities.  And if past projects are any indication, about 80 percent of them will be women.

Passing on the Gift

A cornerstone of Heifer programs is “Passing on the Gift,” in which program participants, once established, pass on the equivalent of the livestock, seeds and training they received to other needy community members. This is often in the form of the first female offspring of their livestock.  “That way,” said Allen, “once we leave the community, the project keeps growing, so 2,100 farmers become 4,200 farmers, and the entire community continues to become more prosperous.”

During their time in Limpopo province, the PepsiCo employees will be passing along the gifts of knowledge and experience to help jumpstart the program.  The employees will be working to conduct value chain analyses and business development plans for a:

  • farmers business association consisting of local residents who will help run the Blouberg Program with the Heifer program team;
  • community animal health workers association that will help maintain the health of program livestock; and
  • beekeeping and honey business for the community’s youth.

So far, their efforts have been well received and appreciated.

“During the first week of the project, it was pouring rain,” Allen said, “but the women were willing to walk a few kilometers in the rain on an empty stomach to come and work in partnership with PepsiCo and Heifer to improve their lives and the lives of their children and families.”

Partnerships like this one, which bring together the best from the public, private and non-profit sectors, represent the future of philanthropy and are our best hope for bringing sustainable change to local communities in need. 

Learn more about Heifer’s Blouberg Project, and follow the 2014 PepsiCorps team's journey on Facebook and Twitter via #PepsiCorps.