Queen Máxima and Queen Mathilde spoke at a webinar on food security and nutrition during the pandemic on Wednesday, each highlighting the need for better policies during their speeches.
The event, organised by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, acted as a call-to-arms to “transform agri-food systems to make them more sustainable and resilient in the face of COVID-19 pandemic and other crises, and ensure that everyone has access to affordable, healthy and nutritious food,” according to the FAO website.
Queen Máxima spoke in her role as the UN Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development and highlighted economic and financial policies that can help ensure better food security on various levels.
“Access to financial services is crucial to ensure the supply of and demand for food systems across the globe,” Queen Máxima said.
“On the supply side, financing is necessary to ensure sufficient production, mitigate risk, and invest in sustainable farming methods. On the demand side, access to savings, credit, and insurance is crucial for households to be able to afford healthy diets across longer periods of time – especially in the face of economic shocks. Unfortunately, rural and smallholder households make up a majority of the financially excluded.”
Queen Máxima continued, “COVID-19 has caused grave disruptions to the economic lives of smallholder farmers. Closed markets and borders have disrupted demand and negatively impacted earnings from crop productions. Urban migrants have lost jobs and are unable to send money back home. As a result, smallholder farmers, particularly women, are facing spikes in food insecurity and increases in poverty.”
Her Majesty concluded, “Moving forward, my office and I stand ready to intensify support to advance global agricultural finance outcomes.”
Queen Mathilde’s speech focused on the role women play in the production and procurement of food and how they are affected by food insecurity. The Belgian Queen is an advocate for the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.
“[G]uaranteeing everyone the right to sufficient and healthy food also remains a long-term endeavour. Of course, there have been many advances. But progress is uncertain and sometimes fragile. In 2020, we live in a world where too many people do not always have their fill, or suffer from deep deficits in essential nutrients,” Queen Mathilde said.
She continued, “In many rural societies in developing countries, women are key players in food production or processing. They cultivate. They cook. They are seen as primarily responsible for family well-being.
“Their status is not, however, enhanced. Their food consumption is inadequate. Their specific nutritional needs, which vary with age and motherhood, are ignored or neglected. Sometimes, perennial taboos prohibit them from consuming certain foods. Their rights to land and financial resources remain limited. The value of their production is underestimated. Too often, their level of education remains low.”
Her Majesty added, “But change cannot rest solely on the shoulders of women and come on top of their many burdens and responsibilities. To change mentalities, the participation and involvement of men and their entire community are essential. Greater consideration for women’s work, greater mutual respect and a better division of labour are the first concrete results achieved through this approach.”