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 - Livestock
Feed supplies

Feed supplies


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

Livestock, to a greater or lesser degree, place a burden on the ecosystem in which they live through their consumption of feed resources and, in the case of more intensive systems, through the generation of waste products. When these ecosystems have been severely affected by an emergency, the impacts may well be exacerbated both in the short term and during recovery.

In such situations, it may be questionable whether people’s livelihoods are best served by programmes that involve improvements in feeding to encourage the rapid re-establishment of livestock populations. Additionally, the environmental costs of transporting feed should be taken into account when considering environmental impact.

Beyond land-use change, livestock systems contribute to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions directly, mostly through enteric fermentation and manure, through the production of feed and other inputs, and downstream in transportation, cooling, storage, and processing of livestock products.

Gender, age, disability and HIV/AIDS implications

Seek traditional knowledge on sustainable feed sources and methods.


Environmental impact categories

Air pollution
Soil pollution
Water pollution
Climate change
Loss of biodiversity and ecosystems
Natural Resource Depletion
Soil erosion
Increased drought/flood

Summary of Impacts
Summary of potential environmental impacts

Land degradation and erosion due to over-grazing.

Air, soil, water contamination due to over-intensive livestock farming.

Emissions from feed transport and processing.

Impact detail
Detailed potential environmental impact information

Global livestock production uses about 80 percent of agricultural land – 3.4 billion hectares (ha) for grazing including rangelands and pasturelands and 0.5 billion ha of arable lands dedicated to feeding production; the latter figure corresponds to one-third of total cropland (FAO, 2009).

The production of global feed requires 2.5 billion ha of land, which is about half of the global agricultural area, of which 2 billion ha is grassland and about 1.3 billion ha cannot be converted to cropland (Mottet et al., 2017). This means that 57 % of the land used for feed production is not suitable for food production. Livestock consumes about 6 billion tonnes of dry matter as feed per year; however, 86 % of this amount is made of materials that are currently not eaten by humans (Mottet et al., 2017).

Over-intensive farming of livestock typically significantly degrades land due to overgrazing. This affects the viability of other animals and flora and whole ecosystems. To feed people sustainably, all actors should be encouraging the increase in the proportion of plants in human diets.

The livestock sector is also responsible for significant amounts of greenhouse gas emissions from transport and also from food processing. Humanitarian actors should consider alternative means of livelihood support rather than strengthening livestock management.


Summary of environmental activities

· Promote circular bioeconomy.

· Combine agroecology, agroforestry, organic farming, agropastoral and integrated systems.

Detailed guidance for implementing suggested environmental activities

Promoting a circular bioeconomy (as opposed to a linear process of extraction, production, use, and disposal) involves recycling resources at every possible step in agrifood systems, as well as “closing systems” to minimize the loss of resources and nutrients. Increased circularity in food systems – where waste from one process becomes a resource input for another – offers ways to increase the efficiency of food production.

Countries implementing mechanisms that better use the biomass they are already generating are thus expected to see better economic and environmental returns over time. Promoting a circular bioeconomy involves recycling resources at every possible step in agrifood systems and closing systems to minimize the loss of resources and nutrients.

Unused crop residues, food waste, and agro-industrial by-products are lost opportunities to recycle and optimize resource use efficiency and can be repurposed for animal feed.

Food waste itself can also be put to better use. “Clean” sources of food waste from restaurants and supermarkets can be valuable sources of livestock feed, as long as the food is tested and treated for pathogens to ensure feed safety. With the right incentives, legislation, and systems in place for feed safety, some countries manage to recycle half of their food waste into high-value “green” livestock feed. For example, soybean cake (a by-product of oil production) has for a long time been used as a feed supplement, and cake from other crops such as cottonseed and sunflower – as well as peels from crops such as potato and cassava – can be recycled as feed.

Likewise, whey, a protein-rich by-product of cheese-making can be and has been traditionally fed directly to pigs. Dregs from biofuel production and brewing can make excellent livestock feed. And slaughterhouse waste can be converted to bone meal fertilizer or used to generate biogas.

Agroecology, agroforestry, organic farming, agropastoral and integrated systems to improve productivity and restore degraded pasturelands, with the aim of increasing their resilience, reducing overall GHG emissions and the emissions intensity of livestock production.

Improved management of grasslands, rangelands, and croplands, by prioritizing organic fertilizers and promoting the interactions between plants and microorganisms with the objective of improving the absorption of nitrogen while reducing the need for chemical fertilizers. Improved feed quality and efficiency to reduce methane and nitrogen emissions, including practices of reducing feed additives, diversification of forage types, breeding insects for livestock feeding.

Lessons Learnt
Lessons from past experiences

PAG Uganda has worked with local communities to help them assess the environmental impacts of different livestock against their economic and nutritional benefits.

Communities have shifted away from vegetation stripping goats, and are sustainably managing pig, cow, and small animal stock sizes.

Activity Measurement
Environmental indicators/monitoring examples

Number of more sustainable alternative livelihoods introduced

Number of intensive livestock livelihoods converted to lower impact more sustainable methods

Activity Status
Main Focus
Focus of suggested activities

Environmental enhancement

Resource implications (physical assets, time, effort)

This requires careful planning, local coordination, community participation, coordination with local organisations, in-depth analysis of intervention impacts and interactions

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