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Stay on Ban on Women’s entry at night sessions of Asia’s biggest Christian meet in Kerala

The bar on women's entry to the night sessions of the Syrian Mar Thoma Church's famed Maramon convention began on Sunday

Students are seen completing an exercise at a Girls Who Code class in San Jose, California, June 18, 2014. Girls Who Code, a national non-profit, aims to prepare young women for futures in computing-related fields. VOA

Kerala, 12 Feb, 2017: The bar on women’s entry to the night sessions of the Syrian Mar Thoma Church’s famed Maramon convention that began here on Sunday will stay due to security reasons, its supreme head said.

“There is a group here, who are trying to get media attention by raising non-issues. They want their names to be printed in newspapers and show their faces on TV. At this convention, there are four sessions where women can enter, but it’s not possible in the night sessions and that’s not going to be changed,” said Metropolitan, Joseph Mar Thoma, in his inaugural address at the week-long 122nd edition of what is billed as Asia’s biggest Christian convention.

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“It must not be forgotten that our Church has always taken the lead by giving due importance to women and we were the first to give voting rights to women. The non-entry to women in night sessions is on account of security and it’s not a ban,” he said.

This convention, held on the banks of river Pamba, has over the years become the flagship programme of the Thiruvalla-headquartered Mar Thoma Syrian Church of Malabar, which claims to have a following of a million.

The convention is held under the aegis of the Mar Thoma Evangelistic Association.

Incidentally, for the past one month, a group of Mar Thoma Church members under the name and style of ‘Naveekerna Vedi’ (Reformists) — which has been in existence for over a quarter century but does not have the approval of the Church — raised the issue in the Church meeting, but the matter was not taken up for discussion.

After that they have been trying to gain public support to the idea of entry to women in the night sessions, but it has failed to get acceptance.

The Mar Thoma Church, which defines itself as apostolic in origin, universal in nature, biblical in faith, evangelical in principle, ecumenical in outlook, oriental in worship, democratic in function, and episcopal in character, has been able to make inroads in the education sector and runs numerous educational institutions.

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The origin and growth of this annual get-together for a week can be traced to the great revival movement which gathered momentum along with the reformation in the ancient Syrian Church of Malabar under the leadership of Abraham Malpan. (IANS)

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Small Farmers in Asia Miss Out On Climate Change Resilient Seeds

East-West Seed has built a successful business focusing purely on smallholders

pollution, seeds
Women farmers use sticks to make holes in the soil for seeds, on a farm near Pangalengan, West Java, Indonesia. VOA

Millions of smallholder farmers in South and Southeast Asia are missing out on new, resilient seeds that could improve their yields in the face of climate change, according to an index published Monday.

The 24 top seed companies fail to reach four-fifths of the region’s 170 million smallholder farmers for reasons such as poor infrastructure, high prices and lack of training, the Access to Seeds Index found.

Access to seeds bred to better withstand changing weather conditions such as higher temperatures is vital as farmers battle loss of productivity due to climate change, said Ido Verhagen, head of the Access to Seeds Foundation, which published the index.

Egypt, pollution, seeds
A farmer burns rice straw at his field in Qalyub, causing a “black cloud” of smoke that spreads across the Nile valley, near the agricultural road which leads to the capital city of Cairo, Egypt. VOA

“We see increasing demands for new varieties, because [farmers] are affected by climate change,” Verhagen told Reuters.

“If we want to feed a growing population, if we want to tackle climate change, if we want to go towards a more sustainable food system, we have to start with seeds,” he said.

Smallholder farmers managing between one to 10 hectares of land provide up to 80 percent of the food supply in Asia, said the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

 pollution, seeds
FILE – Farmer sifts wheat crop at a farm on the outskirts of western Indian city of Ahmedabad. VOA

But traditional methods of preserving seeds from harvests are not always sufficient to cope with a changing climate.

About 340 million people were hungry in 2017 in South and Southeast Asia, a number that has barely changed since 2015, according to latest figures from the United Nations.

“The question is how to get markets to provide the varieties [of seeds] that farmers want, at prices that they’re able to pay,” said Shawn McGuire, agricultural officer at the FAO.

Some smaller companies are leading the way in helping smallholders access more resilient seeds, Verhagen said, such as Thailand-based East-West Seed which topped the index ahead of global giants Bayer and Syngenta, which ranked second and third.

 pollution, seeds
Indian Farmers causing smog in Pakistan. wikimedia commons

East-West Seed has built a successful business focusing purely on smallholders, he said, while Indian companies Acsen HyVeg and Namdhari, ranked sixth and seventh respectively, have also reached small-scale farmers with seeds.

Also Read: Climate Change’s Fight Harder Than Thought: Study

The index, funded by the Dutch government and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, ranks companies based on seven areas including strategies to help small farmers and supporting conservation. (VOA)