Virtual Environmental and Humanitarian Adviser Tool – (VEHA Tool) is a tool
to easily integrate environmental considerations in humanitarian response. Field Implementation guidances are useful for the design and execution of humanitarian activities in the field.

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VEHA - Field Implementation Guidance

Agricultural livelihoods
Recover livelihoods - Agroforestery



Environmental factors causing/contributing to the needs and affecting the humanitarian activity

Sustainable forest management curbs forest degradation and deforestation while increasing direct benefits to people and the environment. At the local level, sustainable forest management contributes to people’s livelihoods, income generation, and employment. At the environmental level, it contributes to, for example, carbon sequestration and water and soil conservation, and the flourishing of ecosystems.

In 2015, forests covered about 30.6 percent of the world’s total land area; about 3 999 million hectares. Forests contain more than half of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity and store carbon in both above- and below-ground biomass. The forest sector contributes about $600 billion annually to global GDP and provides employment to over 50 million people. The extent of the world’s forests continues to decline as human populations continue to grow and demand food and land increases. Some 129 million hectares of forest – an area almost equivalent in size to South Africa – have been lost since 1990. Fire, forest pests, and climate change are also contributing to the loss of forests around the world.

Close to 1.6 billion people – more than 25 percent of the world’s population – rely on forest resources for their livelihoods and to generate food and cash. Moreover, many countries in the developing world draw on fuelwood to meet as much as 90 percent of their energy requirements (FAO-2013).

Climates such as arid or continental have low capacities for regrowth and regeneration. Vegetation removed to meet energy, agricultural or livestock needs can take a long time to grow back. Deforestation is a threat multiplier for other environmental risks, exacerbating the local consequences of climate change, desertification, erosion, flooding, zoonotic diseases, and pathogens – just to name a few. Women and children are often disproportionately burdened by deforestation due to gendered roles in the collection of wood for cooking and/or heating.

With continued deforestation and exploitation of subterranean water reserves, it is likely that many more parts of the world will face severe water shortages and decreased water quality.

Gender, age, disability and HIV/AIDS implications

Consulting diverse people in the community will help to both understand dependencies on forest resources and is also key to ensuring reforestation is sustainably managed.


Environmental impact categories

Air pollution
Climate Change
Loss of biodiversity and ecosystems
Natural Resource Depletion
Soil pollution
Soil erosion
Water pollution
Water depletion

Summary of Impacts
Summary of potential environmental impacts

Converting forestland for agricultural use
Illegal logging (impact on protected species, unauthorized area, use of chemicals…)
Fuel production
Shortened fallow periods
Fire (wild and manmade)
Overharvesting and resource depletion

Impact detail
Detailed potential environmental impact information

Conversion of land use is a widespread problem. There are many underlying drivers, including increased demand for land to grow crops to feed livestock, as well as providing timber for consumer products and prioritization of economic development and food security over the environment. Forests are being converted into plantations for oil, rubber, tea, and coffee, and forests felled for fuel and fiber.

Loggers may use creosote on-site to preserve wood – these chemicals can be transported through effluents and runoff and enter into soil and waterways and can pose serious threats to terrestrial and aquatic organisms as well as to human health.

Forest cutting for fuel production is defined as the forest biomass removed for energy production purposes, whether for industrial, commercial, or domestic use. In rural areas, biomass is an important resource for cooking and heating. Wood is one of the largest biomass energy resources; others include food crops, plants, and residues from agricultural and forestry activities.

Shifting cultivation, otherwise known as slash-and-burn agriculture, is a centuries-old system for land use based on alternating cropping periods with periods of regrowth of vegetation (fallow). The forest is cut, burned, and used to raise agricultural crops for one or more years before farmers move onto another plot and allow the used land to lie fallow.

Wildfires in forests and other ecosystems also affect livelihoods. An estimated 150 to 250 million hectares of tropical forests are affected by wildfires annually; more than two million people worldwide were affected in the past 10 years.

The Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters estimated the damage caused by wildfires at around US$ 24 billion in the last decade. Wildfires are increasingly being exacerbated or even caused by climate change due to the drying out of trees.

Activities that undermine sustained yield, such as farming, grazing, overharvesting, high-grading (the practice of cutting only the most valuable trees and leaving the remaining), and clearcutting, both harm forests and reduce forest productivity and long-term economic potential. Sustained overexploitation can lead to the destruction or degradation of forest resources to the extent that it threatens global biodiversity.


Summary of environmental activities

· Map indigenous species and historical forest cover.

· Advocate for improved land management practices and reforestation.

· Select and plant indigenous trees

· Genetic selection of seed source

· Identify and import the resilient relatives of trees affected by widespread disease

· Good site preparation

· Care of saplings in transport, planting, watering, feeding, protection

· Establish tree nurseries

· Conservation forests alongside sustainably managed forests

· Avoid monocultural planting

· Timely planting

· Appropriate weeding

· Protection from fire and grazing animals.

· Review livelihoods to reduce tree cutting such as sourcing alternative sustainable materials.

Detailed guidance for implementing suggested environmental activities

Map indigenous tree species and historical forest cover.

Advocate governments for improved land management practices and reforestation as part of their National Commitments or National Adaptation Plans.

Identify the closest resilient relatives of trees that are diseased and explore introducing them to save the species.

Ensure trees planted are indigenous to the local area, not just to the country, and are suited to the local climate and groundwater conditions.

Genetic selection of seed sources can assist with the disease, pest, and climate resilience

Good site preparation can help trees to flourish, such as restoring ground topography, natural drainage or infiltration, and planting complementary species.

Care of saplings. Many tree-planting schemes fail due to saplings dying in transport from lack of water or harsh storage conditions, failure to feed and water them in the months after planting, or failure to protect them from being stripped by animals or cut by humans for fuel.

Establish tree nurseries to ensure a sufficient supply of healthy saplings to meet the need.

Build agreements with local communities and local government to establish both conservation forests that are left to flourish as unspoiled ecosystems, and adjacent sustainably managed forests where tree cutting is permitted in a sustainable manner for fuel, furniture making, export, etc.

Avoid planting monoculture forests, they do not allow other species to thrive, including animals and insects.

Ensure timely planting, so saplings/seedlings do not die through excessive heat, drought, waterlogged soil, pests, etc.

Ensure appropriate weeding including other seedlings if they are growing too close.

Provide protection from fire and grazing animals. Integrated fire management. Integrated Fire Management is a holistic approach that addresses the management of fire on all vegetation, integrating measures for prevention, preparedness, suppression, and restoration.

Healthy and diverse ecosystems are more resilient to hazards. Forests are estimated to save between USD 2–3.5 billion per year equivalent to disaster damage restoration of key forest ecosystems. Forests can be used as shelterbelts and windbreaks, and also play an important role in protecting against landslides, floods, and avalanches. Trees stabilize riverbanks and mitigate soil erosion, while woodlots provide fuelwood, timber, and fodder.

If livelihoods activities involve the harvesting or extraction of natural resources for building materials, then project planners should ensure that associated environmental damage is minimized by implementing better management practices.

Lessons Learnt
Lessons from past experiences

Humanitarian actors responding to the Darfur crisis assessed that they had cut down so many trees to build displacement camps (much used for firing brick kilns) that it was no longer environmentally viable for people to return home.

They responded by supporting local groups of people with disabilities to make soil stabilised blocks and to run tree nurseries. This gave them an independent income, prestige within the community and started restoring the local environment.

Refer to:

Activity Measurement
Environmental indicators/monitoring examples

# of indigenous tree species reintroduced into the local area

Proportion of biodiversity in tree species

Measured improvements in soil quality and flora and fauna biodiversity

Activity Status
Main Focus
Focus of suggested activities

Prevention of environmental damage

Mitigation of environmental damage

Environmental enhancement

Resource implications (physical assets, time, effort)

Time and consultation and budget to assess soil quality, obtain permissions, identify indigenous species, plan, plant, and protect trees.

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