Catalyzing Youth

Agri-Entrepreneurship in Davangere, Karnataka


In India, Cargill’s operations started in 1987. We have businesses in refined oils, food ingredients, grain and oilseeds, , cotton, animal nutrition and trade structured finance. Cargill Foods India, markets leading consumer brands of edible oils such as Nature Fresh, Gemini, Sweekar, Leonardo Olive Oil, Rath and Sunflower brand of hydrogenated fats. We also market wheat flour under the Nature Fresh brand name. The Animal Nutrition business of Cargill provides animal feed and premix and nutrition for aqua, dairy and poultry. We market animal feed and premix under the brands such as Provimi, Purina, Citura and Cargill. The Grains and Oilseed crush business originates grains & oilseeds at 240 storage locations.  Cargill employs more than 3000 employees working across offices and plants and a network of warehouses and depots.


Jagdeesh‘s family in Davangere, Karnataka cultivates rice, coconut and other crops on  9+ acres of farm area. Jagdeesh, a 30-year-old farmer who studied commerce, has strong business acumen and he used the knowledge to improve his farm and opened an input shop in his village, an important resource for other local farmers.


Stories like Jagdeesh’s, however, are not common today as more and more rural youth are migrating to cities and towns for livelihoods and do not see a future for themselves in agriculture. This exodus leaves a vacuum of agricultural knowledge, skills and business people to support existing or new farming enterprises, further deteriorating the appeal of an agricultural livelihood.


Keeping this at the centre, Cargill and TechnoServe developed the Cargill Agri-Fellows (CAF) program to support a younger generation of agriculture entrepreneurs in Davangere. The Agri-Fellows Program is a part of the ‘Saathi’ project, a collaboration between Cargill India and TechnoServe advancing economic development of 5,000 farming households. The CAF program aims to create agriculture-based livelihoods for youth from farming households, strengthening the agriculture ecosystem by providing agricultural extension support and assisting young entrepreneurs in ventures that provide solutions for local farmers.


When Jagdeesh joined the six-month program in April 2016, he and the other fellows began a month and a half of practical training at the University of Agricultural Sciences in Dharwad, Karnataka. The university setting fosters an innovative environment where program participants can focus on how and where they can build careers in agriculture. There, Jagdeesh learnt about and discussed the region’s agriculture and agribusiness needs, and began to formulate his business plan. With his coursework complete, Jagdeesh began the field component of the program, working alongside the TechnoServe project team and sharpening the skills that he would need to make his business a success. He had developed an interest in horticulture during the practical training, and, together with the Saathi project team, formulated a plan to intercrop marigold plantations within 3 acres of his coconut orchard.


An important aspect of the CAF program is the diversity of participants’ career trajectories. Some fellows, like Jagdeesh, have decided to start their own ventures, while others looked for employment as extension service providers. The program will graduate 30 fellows in two batches – including 20 percent women – who will then develop sustainable business plans. The program also focuses on ensuring that the future extension officers and service providers among them are equipped to provide these entrepreneurs with the services and infrastructure that they will need.


Among the first batch of graduates, there are dairy farmers, mushroom producers, drip irrigation engineers and vermicomposting providers, among other professionals. This diversity helps build the business support infrastructure, and facilitate further agricultural development within the community.


Armed with a business model for cultivating marigolds, Jagdeesh approached Synthite, a company that now provides him seedlings at nominal cost and assures buyback of flowers at a fixed rate. Jagdeesh also planned his planting cycle around traditional festivals in October, when he knew that demand for flowers would be high. After his first harvest, Jagdeesh sold 4 tons of flowers in the retail market and supplied Synthite with 20 additional tons of marigolds, earning an additional ~Rs.189,000 by December 2016. (Previously, the family’s income from all farming activities was around Rs.315,000). With such a promising start after only three months, Jagdeesh now plans to integrate his intercropping method into 4 more acres of his land, rotating a total of eight crops.


Jagdeesh can confidently invest in his business, knowing that in addition to Saathi team’s follow-up support, he also has a community of fellow agricultural professionals to provide the inputs, services or advice that he may need. Jagdeesh’s marigold harvest represents a golden opportunity for Davangere as this first wave of Agri-Fellows help establish an agriculture ecosystem and act as catalysts and role models that will allow their families and their region to thrive.


Cargill and TechnoServe have partnered to implement “Saathi”, a ~ Rs.10 crore, local economic development project with the farming community near Cargill’s corn milling plant in Davangere. The project is focused on 23 villages in the proximity of the Cargill plant and is committed to impact 5,000 smallholder farming households over a period of four years (2015-2019).


The key pillars of the intervention are:

  • Agriculture development & diversification intervention implemented with 5,000 farming households
  • Livelihood opportunities developed for the youth of the farming households through Cargill Agri Fellow Program
  • Economic empowerment opportunities created for the women of the farming households
  • Community engagement through targeted interventions in public places including local schools and Anganwadis (daycare centers)


We at Cargill take pride in the fact that Corporate Responsibility is part of everything we do! Our purpose of being in business is to nourish the world in a safe, responsible and sustainable manner; therefore it becomes naturally incumbent on us to address the complex issue of food security and nutrition. In India, we developed a multi-pronged program ‘Nourishing India’ and deployed more than Rs. 90+ crore and impacting over 32 million people. We promote food security in many ways by working directly with farmers to help increase their productivity; supporting government investments in rural communities and local agriculture; advocating for open trade; partnering with global organizations, such as CARE, TechnoServe, and the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN).