Social enabling: Helping tap untapped resources

Why do some countries with poor soil conditions produce more than some with better soil conditions? Generally speaking, the areas with the highest agricultural yields are not the places with the best climate and soil quality, but the places with the best social enabling environment. Examples of such social enabling factors – which go along way in determining whether a farmer can achieve the full potential of soil, skills and climate – are government policies, the functioning of and access to agricultural markets, access to finance, access to knowledge, and public expenditure on agricultural research and development.

Scientists contend that we could produce a European-style diet for double the 9 billion global population that is expected by 2050. One continent with vast potential is Africa, which is home to six of the world’s 10 fastest growing economies over the last decade. But the right social enabling factors are crucial. 

Social enabling numbers

  • 75% of the world’s poor live in rural areas in developing countries, but only 4% of development support goes to agriculture
  • Europe has higher farming yields than the Americas, despite having lower quality soil
  • East Asia has high yields despite a low soil quality, thanks to a favourable climate and use of subsidised fertilisers
  • Argentina has the best soil and a good climate but is not reaching its potential due to the negative impact of agricultural policies such as export taxes

Meet Koos van der Merwe

With 25 years’ experience of agricultural and environmental protection experience to share, Koos van der Merwe runs a research farm in Mozambique. He shares farming best practices with small-scale farmers and helps them get from farm to market. Learn about all of the initiatives he has developed to create more rural entrepreneurs.