International team-up

Clinton Global Initiative partners with Jewish nonprofit to aid Nepalese farmers

In the coming years, the World Jewish Relief will support some 2,500 farmers in a bid to combat negative effects of climate change on women

When Rabbi Dina Brawer took to the stage in mid-September at the annual Clinton Global Initiative in New York, she shared the story of Bishnu, a 58-year-old father from Mahottari, Nepal, who struggled to feed his family from his small plot of land due to shifting weather patterns as a result of the climate crisis. 

Brawer, the executive director of World Jewish Relief’s American branch, announced at CGI that the organization was committing to continue a pilot program that it launched last year helping farmers in remote Nepal like Bishnu. Over the next three years, WJR said it will support 2,500 farmers across 12 rural communities in northern and southern Nepal in a partnership with Community Self Reliance Centre and with gender expertise from Women Organizing for Change in Agriculture and Natural Resource Management.

WJR plans “to introduce training, equipment and capital inputs to increase land access and ownership and to mitigate flood and landslide risk and implement climate-resilient agricultural practices on their lands,” according to a release. “WJR’s commitment will address the disproportionate impacts of climate change on the livelihoods and health of women in these communities, through tailored livelihood support, sessions to boost their civic empowerment, and education programs for men on gender equity,” the release continued. “Through this commitment, WJR will build a new model for rural farming populations to ensure future pathways to sustainable economic and gender empowerment amidst complex challenges caused by climate change.” 

In her speech at the CGI, Brawer highlighted the critical need to address gender disparities in the context of climate-resilient farming, emphasizing that women play a crucial role in food production and climate adaptation efforts but often face unequal access to resources and opportunities.  

Brawer told eJewishPhilanthropy that the community has a responsibility to help people whose livelihood has been impacted by climate change. “For me, hearing Bishnu’s story has been very moving and made the work personal,” she said. 

Josh Balser, CGI’s director of humanitarian response, told eJP that WJR’s commitment is especially timely as extreme-weather events are on the rise globally. “As the effects of climate change worsen, our approaches must be more shock resistant and intersectional, which is why it is so critical that this commitment supports and empowers women, who are disproportionately affected by climate change,” Balser said. 

Founded by former President Bill Clinton in 2005, CGI is a two-day annual convening attended by NGOs and policymakers dedicated to forging new partnerships. This year’s theme was climate change, with presentations on topics ranging from preparing for extreme temperatures to advancing sustainable agriculture. This was the first year WJR participated in CGI, but the British organization has been empowering people in crisis worldwide for 90 years, starting with helping Jews flee Nazi Germany in 1933 under the group’s original name, the Central British Fund for World Jewish Relief. 

As part of its 90th anniversary strategy, the organization,  which is the U.K.’s main Jewish overseas aid organization, cultivated a partnership with the U.S. That included the hiring in February of the Boston-based Brawer, who was the first Orthodox woman rabbi to serve in the U.K.

In addition to climate resilience programs, WJR works with refugees, vulnerable aging populations and responds to humanitarian disasters. In September, the group ran an emergency relief appeal after Morocco was hit by the country’s deadliest earthquake in six decades. In the past two years, WJR has also responded to crises in Turkey, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Pakistan and Colombia.

“Our strategy is delivering immediate relief, meals and blankets, in the first week and then with the rest of our funding we think about the long term and giving people a stable place to live which will allow them to go back to work and live a normal life as much as possible. We want to enable people to be as self-sufficient as possible,” Brawer said.  

The ongoing war in Ukraine prompted WJR’s biggest relief operation since the Nazi era, with around 188,000 people helped and nearly $13 million in humanitarian aid sent. 

“Although our work started with Jewish refugees, we took the Jewish experience of being marginalized and a refugee and used what we learned to help others going through similar circumstances,” Brawer said. “The ‘Jewish’ in World Jewish Relief represents those values; it’s what motivates us to serve people around the world.”