Exploring new paths to community enrichment


Cargill is partnering with Heifer International to help smallholder farmers around the world

Cargill’s animal nutrition business recently teamed up with Heifer International to launch a new community service project that might serve as the prototype for multiple projects around the world. The Qingshen Project, in China, will provide 150 smallholder farmers with 100 baby chicks, veterinary support, and training in best practices for raising poultry, as well as marketing and business training.

As these farmers grow their own flocks, each of them will be asked to pass on 100 chicks to other smallholder farmers. By project end, the goal is to assist 450 smallholder farmers. 

“This is a really exciting project for a couple of reasons,” said Chuck Warta, Cargill Premix & Nutrition group leader and executive sponsor of the Qingshen project. “First, it draws on our expertise in animal husbandry and nutrition and fits very well with our vision of providing better nutrition for better lives. Second, it’s the kind of project we can replicate anywhere in the world.”

Social responsibility projects aren’t new for Cargill’s animal nutrition business – employees all over the world have participated in hundreds of different community enrichment projects. The farmer training programs, however, rank among its most impactful efforts.

For example, Cargill animal nutrition has offered farmer training programs in Vietnam since it first began doing business there; more than 1.5 million Vietnamese farmers have benefited by learning best practices in animal husbandry, health and nutrition. More recently, new training programs have reached hundreds of thousands more farmers in Poland, India, China and Korea.

The outcomes from these programs are quite amazing. In India, for example, it’s not unusual for farmer training programs to help dairy farmers expand their herds from four or five cows to as many as 20 or more. At the same time, these farmers have been able to increase their per-cow-production from roughly five or six liters of milk per day to as much as 15 to 20 liters per day.

Like many Cargill employees, Warta has had the opportunity to participate in a number of community enrichment projects.

“Helping people who are in very dire need can be a real eye-opener,” said Warta. “When you sit on a dirt floor in a small hut and talk with a farmer who has one cow, or a few chickens, you understand how little it takes to make a very real and significant difference in their lives.”

Warta has found these kinds of experiences to be both enriching and transformative – and it’s an experience he’d like to share as widely as possible.

“This project provides a way for our employees to do what they do best – and make a huge difference in the world,” he said. “It’s not just about providing financial support; it’s about leveraging the expertise of our employees to help these farmers improve their livelihoods and forge a better life for themselves.”

Partnering with proven non-profit organizations is an approach that meshes well with Cargill’s corporate giving strategy.

“We do a lot of things in partnership with others, because we know we can’t solve all of these difficult problems on our own,” said Taryn Barclay, Cargill director of corporate responsibility and partnerships. “That’s why we work with organizations such as CARE USA, which is helping us enrich communities in eight countries around the world. But, for our animal nutrition business, Heifer International is pretty much a perfect match. They’ve got a proven track record working with the kinds of projects that can benefit from Cargill animal nutrition’s technical expertise.”

Heifer International is unique, according to Barclay, in that it combines giving with an abundance of ongoing support and training. And, it creates a new network of volunteers to help others by asking the original recipients of support to pay it forward.

“Heifer is thrilled to be entering into this partnership with Cargill animal nutrition,” said Marleen New, Heifer International senior director, global partnerships and alliances. “The technical expertise Cargill employees can provide will be of significant, long-lasting benefit. I am excited to see the impact of Cargill’s involvement with the Heifer China staff and the 450 families assisted in this project over the next three years.”

According to Warta, the approach Cargill animal nutrition is following in this project is much more impactful than simply giving smallholder farmers money, food, or a few goats or chickens. “It’s really about teaching them how to use these animals to improve their livelihoods and strengthen their families. And, it’s about teaching them to pass it on. When you do that, you create an amazing story that touches your heart and others’ and helps us all understand how amazing humanity can be when we help one another.”