Princess Viktória de Bourbon de Parme. I thank farmers every day for our food security

Princess Viktória de Bourbon de Parme, patron of Save The Children Netherlands, aims to make a difference in children’s lives. And to achieve big results, she’s counting on small farmers.

Farms that are less than two football fields in size: this is what smallholder farmers own. In spite of this, they supply 80 per cent of the food that people eat in developing countries (Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America). That’s a huge responsibility. So why do they have limited access to resources? Something must change.

Her Royal Highness Princess Viktória de Bourbon de Parme is trying to do just that. She has been patron of the NGO Save the Children Netherlands since 2015 and she’s fighting to end hunger, which is one of the main causes of child mortality. In order to achieve her goal she’s putting her efforts into empowering small-scale farmers: if their working conditions improved, if they had the know-how and the right technologies to better manage their land and to mitigate the effects of global warming, children would have enough food. And that’s why she took part in the Seeds&Chips international food and innovation summit which was held in Milan from 7 to 10 May.

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princess Viktoria de bourbon de parme save the children Netherlands
Princess Viktória de Bourbon de Parme decided to become patron of Save the Children when she became a mother for the first time

Training small-scale farmers is the key to success, according to Princess Viktória

What we need is “traditional innovation”, as Q”apaj Conde Choque, co-chair of the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus, said in a panel on the topic of developing solutions to help smallholder farmers moderated by Princess Viktória. This means local people, who have a profound knowledge of their land, share techniques they have developed over many years. But they also need innovative solutions to face the problems posed by our modern age. These solutions aren’t a utopia: for example, there’s a greenhouse that allows farmers to grow vegetables despite drought and desertification, or Internet of things devices that allow for monitoring soil conditions to decide when is the best time to plant crops. In addition, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) is working in developing countries to establish so-called Climate-Smart Agriculture: farmers are encouraged to choose crops that best adapt to the changing climate, for example to higher temperatures and drier soil.

Save the Children is training small-scale farmers on how to prevent the loss of crops or livestock due to drought, floods or diseases. Above all, they just need to benefit from the same opportunities we have, as Princess Viktória told us at Seeds&Chips.

Why did you decide to become patron of Save the Children? Was that decision due to a specific event in your life or to a general feeling you had in your heart?
I was asked when I first became a mother and already, before becoming a mother, I felt very strongly about children and children’s rights. Children are born in the world and not everyone has equal opportunities. As someone active in the legal field, I realised I wanted to make a difference and contribute in a positive way to the lives of children.

John Kerry said that 8,000 children die from hunger every day (during his keynote speech at Seeds&Chips). What does Save the Children do to try to avoid that?
Save the Children was founded 100 years ago, during a famine, to fight hunger after World War I, and unfortunately today even if we produce enough food there’s still hunger in the world – which is unbelievable. There’s hunger which can cause deaths, and hunger which can cause damage to the brains of children and the bodies of children, so even if they survive hunger, they have fewer opportunities in life because they didn’t get the right food. 

Renewable energies are a theme we work a lot on. Nearly 3 billion people in the developing world still cook food on stoves or open fires. Because of that a lot of children die of respiratory diseases. How can we fight that?
What we can do is think of innovation and look at the innovations we have, and find ways to make that accessible to people in need, so what has been so great in collaborating with Seeds&Chips is that often you find out that the solutions are already there. My main goal at Seeds&Chips was to connect startups and innovators with farmers from the field, farmers who have difficulty in accessing the market, in improving their yield, in irrigations systems. If you bring these two worlds together you make a difference in people’s lives, in communities, realising what food security for children means. I think it’s really important to look beyond their boundaries and make sure there’s access to this type of innovation. 

Could you please tell us something about the project “Celebrating farmers”?
Celebrating farmers is about being thankful to farmers who provide food security for us everyday. We’re here able to have another profession, and have food security in Italy, because there are farmers who do the hard manual labour to provide food and make food accessible and cheap for us. I thank farmers every day for having food security and by bringing farmers into this discussion about climate change, about innovation, I think we can really make a difference in the world.

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