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.
Destocking is commonly used in response to slow-onset emergencies and is generally inappropriate for rapid-onset disasters. In a situation such as drought, it can be a successful way of providing immediate assistance to affected households and also help them to protect a smaller more productive herd. Livestock off-take should occur as pasture and water become insufficient.
Livestock and the environment have a close and complex relationship. Livestock depends on the availability of water and feed and can generate solid, liquid, and gaseous ‘by-products’ that have a negative impact on the environment, as well as providing fertiliser that can support vegetation and soil quality. They rely on land and water for the provision of food and can therefore cause significant vegetation loss and harm to ecosystems.
In dry season, for instance, livestock prices can plummet as people compete to sell their animals while they are still relatively healthy. Delayed rainy seasons lead to late planting, reduced yields, poor crop conditions, deteriorating livestock conditions and prices, high cereal prices, and worsening acute malnutrition in some areas. This can leave people feeling forced into physically or environmentally harmful occupations such as gold panning, informal mining, or stripping and selling natural resources, to try to make money.
Climate change adds further pressures on storm intensity, temperatures, rainfall intensity, pests, and disease. Prioritise activities that provide relief in the short term and reduce crisis risk in the medium and long term. Destocking may reduce local environmental pressures during a drought.
With cattle there are equity and gender issues, as vulnerable groups, including women, may be excluded from decision making.
The inclusion of sheep and goats will allow more vulnerable groups to benefit and environmental impacts might be reduced.
Loss of biodiversity and ecosystems
Natural Resource Depletion
Destocking or failure to destock in time can have the following impacts on the environment:
Increased or decreased water consumption and water pollution (manure and slaughter)
Increased or decreased land and soil degradation (grazing), deforestation (land management), and loss of biodiversity (stock selection, wildlife contact).
In conflict-sensitive contexts, livestock distribution can cause harm to the beneficiaries. (Reference LEGS);
Increase or reduction of animal diseases.
If not managed well, livestock management, including failure to destock in a timely manner, can have negative impacts on the environment through:
· Overgrazing and improper land conversion resulting in grassland degradation
· Excessive application of manure from livestock production leading to nutrient overloading of cropland or watercourses
· Manure and effluent mismanagement resulting in water pollution (chemical and microbiological);
· Water withdrawals for the production of animal feed, drinking, cleaning, and processing causing water stress;
· Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from enteric fermentation; manure management including manure left on pasture, range, and paddock; and energy-use contributing to climate change;
· Airborne contaminants including gases, odor, dust, and microorganisms impairing air quality;
· Land use change and all of the above leading to biodiversity loss and reduced eco-system services.
· Increased or decreased water consumption and water pollution
· Increased or decreased land and soil degradation (grazing), deforestation (land management), and loss of biodiversity (stock selection, wildlife contact).
· In conflict-sensitive contexts, livestock distribution can cause harm to the beneficiaries. (Reference LEGS);
· Increase or reduction of animal diseases.
Support the establishment or access to early warning systems to enable timely destocking. Support farmers in knowing when and how to effectively destock and re-stock.
Support farmers’ animal resilience, to reduce the need to destock or otherwise lose animals:
· Assess and work with farmers to reduce overgrazing and grassland degradation
· Assess and work to reduce the excessive application of manure from livestock production leading to nutrient overloading of cropland or watercourses
· Support effective manure and effluent management or treatment
· Provide sustainable water capture and storage to prevent over-abstraction and keep animals healthy
· Assess and reduce airborne contaminants including gases, odor, dust, and microorganisms impairing air quality
· Assess and reduce land-use change and protect biodiversity loss or reduced eco-system services
· Carefully assess and understand any local conflict and avoid livestock distribution if this is likely to exacerbate tensions
· Provide support in diagnosing and treating animal diseases.
· Assess and minimize environmental impacts of commercial destocking (refer to guidance notes)
· Assess and minimize environmental impacts of slaughter destocking (refer to guidance notes)
· Assess and minimize environmental impacts of slaughter for disposal (refer to guidance notes)
· Involve relevant sector experts to address these specific needs (such as WASH and Shelter experts)
The negative environmental impacts associated with destocking are the same as those that impact all agricultural livelihood activities. Key support that can be provided to farmers is the establishment of or access to existing early warning systems to enable timely destocking and supporting farmers in knowing when and how to effectively destock and re-stock.
However, options to eliminate the need to destock should be explored first. Support farmers in maintaining healthy animals to reduce the need to destock or otherwise lose animals. This includes assessing and working with farmers to prevent overstocking and reduce overgrazing and grassland degradation. This may require supporting them in developing alternative non-agrigultural forms of income.
Reducing the negative impacts of livestock should include reducing the excessive application of manure which leads to nutrient overloading of cropland and adjacent watercourses. Similarly, support should be provided to ensure effective manure and effluent management or treatment.
Farmers can be supported in developing sustainable water capture and storage to prevent over-abstraction and in assessing and reducing land-use change to protect biodiversity loss or reduced ecosystem services. Support should also be provided in diagnosing and treating animal diseases.
Conflict over natural resources should be assessed and livestock distribution avoided if this is likely to exacerbate tensions.
If bringing the livestock owners and traders together is the simplest and most effective intervention, the environmental impacts should be considered in terms of handling (including waste) and transport. Assess demand for meat and animals, and identify weaknesses in the value/supply chain.
Effective organic waste and wastewater management is critical In animal slaughter to avoid reducing the likelihood of disease transmission and surface water contamination. This could be combined with the reduction of water consumption. A reduction of water consumption without decreasing hygiene standards is often possible. This reduction may be reached by good-house keeping practices, but also by the introduction of new techniques such as dry cleaning prior to washing and converting as much waste as possible into a solid product instead of washing the waste away as wastewater. In general solid waste is fairly easy to control, requires less energy, and is cheaper than wastewater treatment. Plan for the provision of a wastewater treatment system.
Avoid pollution of water by Tanning practices – encourage adoption of traditional vegetable tanning, use of barks and nuts instead of the use of the polluting heavy metal chromium. For tanneries, it is of prime importance to prevent chromium from polluting wastewater. Precipitation of chromium is an easy process. Solid waste containing chromium should be dumped in special dumping grounds where facilities should be available to minimize the amount of percolation.
Learning from NGOs supporting remote communities in northern Niger has demonstrated that access to reliable information on rainfall, storm forecasts and pests, and disease as well as access to market information on animal prices are critical to timing destocking correctly and sustaining people’s livelihoods.
# of actions taken to minimize the environmental impact of destocking activities.
Mitigation and prevention of environmental damage
Time and expertise to consider potential environmental impacts of destocking and take appropriate actions to mitigate them.