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.
Evidence has shown that in the right circumstances, giving people cash is a superior and less expensive way to meet their needs that helps give people choice and dignity and reduces their sense of dependency on external solutions. CVA gives independence and local empowerment to people in need. It provides households with flexibility in identifying and meeting their priority needs. It also reduces costs and the environmental impact of procurement, transport, and storage, whilst supporting local livelihoods and markets.
The use of cash as an assistance modality brings both opportunities and new complexities in the interaction between humanitarian relief and environmental impacts. Negative impacts may emerge when markets and local supply chains are unregulated and unsustainable or when the type of goods and services procured inadvertently increase risk. It may be necessary to put conditionalities or restrictions on CVA if negative environmental impacts are observed. These could include people using the cash to buy equipment or transport to unsustainably deplete natural resources for income. Unrestricted cash and cash from re-selling distributed food or food purchased with vouchers may be used to fund unsustainable or illicit environmentally damaging coping mechanisms.
The most vulnerable (marginalised groups, women/children heading households) might be the ones most likely to feel forced to resort to environmentally unsustainable/unsafe coping strategies. Particular attention should be given to understanding their needs, as well as ensuring their participation. Involving at-risk groups in environmental food for work activities could help to empower them as drivers of change and positive environmental impact.
However, women are often targeted for LHs support without assessing their capacities. There is some literature evidence that women’s resilience is reduced by taking on too many additional/alternative LHs. It is often more effective to consider the needs and capacities of the whole household.
Loss of biodiversity and ecosystems
Natural Resource Depletion
Like most forms of assistance Cash and Voucher Assistance can strengthen or increase environmental impacts and environmental risk. Sourcing local materials to support livelihoods may compromise fragile environmental conditions and potentially cause irreversible damage to ecosystems. If CVA is insufficient, beneficiaries may choose materials that are less environmentally sustainable, unhealthy, and/or of lower quality.
Well-designed CVA activities can reduce environmental impacts or even mitigate existing impacts.
Unconditional, unrestricted, or multipurpose cash grants can be used to strengthen or to, usually unintentionally, increase environmental impacts and environmental risk, in the same way, that all forms of assistance can be used well or not. Livelihoods related buildings or infrastructure may be constructed regardless of environmental conditions, and in a manner that increases vulnerability to disasters such as storms and floods. Sourcing local materials to support livelihoods may compromise fragile environmental conditions (for example by overusing wood, water or sand), and potentially cause irreversible damage to ecosystems. If the amount of cash transferred is insufficient, beneficiaries may choose materials which are less environmentally sustainable, unhealthy, and/or of lower quality. The provision of sustainable alternatives, accompanied by training and awareness-raising of environmental impacts is necessary, accompanied by clearly enforced regulatory policies to ensure that the materials sourced are sustainable and of high quality.
There is increasing evidence that environmental stresses including conflict over depleting natural resources and climate change impacts are increasingly significant drivers of migration to support livelihoods. There is also evidence that migration creates its own additional environmental impacts, from travel emissions to production of poorly managed waste and consumption increase from remittances sent by family working overseas, which can often be used to fund unsustainably resourced local building projects. Well-designed CVA interventions can help people to remain and develop sustainable local livelihoods.
Where market and livelihoods are not functioning due to disaster impact, communities might enter into environmentally harmful strategies such as overconsumption of natural sensitive resources. An example includes wildlife being unsustainably consumed, sometimes as a result of unregulated trade and illegal consumption.
More people are expected to be driven to engage in dangerous occupations, such as gold panning and informal mining, to try to make money. Another example is community firewood collection for charcoal production, cooking food, and generating income when their normal livelihood is failing. It can result in deforestation, soil erosion and increases the risk for flooding. Similarly, some coping strategies, such as the sale of land, migration of whole families, or deforestation, may permanently undermine future food security. CVA can reduce these impacts.
There is much evidence that Cash for work programmes can be very environmentally damaging and they can also stop people from having time to rebuild their existing or develop alternative sustainable LHs.
Assessment and identify community environmentally unsustainable coping strategies. Design CVA to reduce/prevent resorting to these strategies.
Assess and mitigate the environmental impacts of cash or food for work activities.
Ensure CVA is not funding unsustainable or illicit environmentally damaging coping mechanisms. Restricted cash vouchers may help mitigate this.
Assess drivers of migration and adapt CVA to address them.
Ensure Minimum Expenditure Baskets assess natural resources needed and source them sustainably.
Include environmental and sustainability criteria in voucher suppliers’ selection.
Ensure sustainable seed sources when using seed vouchers.
Conduct an assessment with the community to identify environmentally unsustainable coping strategies. Design CVA interventions to discourage or prevent the need to resort to these harmful strategies.
If planning cash or food for work activities, ensure you assess the potential negative or positive environmental impacts and amend the activities so they support the environment, support sustainability of natural resources and ecosystems whilst also supporting people’s livelihood recovery. Consider environmental cash for Work activities such as drainage channel construction, regreening of urban spaces, and waste removal (consider safety and existing structures)
Ensure cash or vouchers programming is not funding unsustainable or illicit environmentally damaging coping mechanisms. To mitigate this risk, the use of restricted cash vouchers could be considered to ensure the provision of environmentally sustainable, non-polluting livelihoods products.
CVA can be designed to seek to reduce people’s need to resort to migrating for livelihoods. It can also be designed to encourage sustainable waste management such as increased cash or voucher benefits for returning packaging or containers. CVA can be used to encourage the use of sustainably sourced or recycled construction materials.
Minimum Expenditure Baskets developed for use in CVA should take account of environmental resources people use for cooking, health, and livelihoods activities and plan to provide or support people in finding their own sustainable alternatives.
Include environmental and sustainability criteria into vouchers’ suppliers’ selection.
When farmers use vouchers or seed fairs, encourage them to buy seeds from local suppliers. Farmers may prefer traditional varieties which are adapted to the local context. These will definitely be available at a lower price, meaning they get more seeds for the same voucher value.
Train people and encourage composting of biodegradable waste for use as fertiliser.
Cash assistance brings both opportunities and new complexities in the interaction between humanitarian relief and environmental impacts.
Negative impacts may emerge when markets and local supply chains are unregulated and unsustainable or when the type of goods and services procured inadvertently increase risk. It may be necessary to put conditionalities or restrictions on CVA if negative environmental impacts are observed. These could include people using the cash to buy equipment or transport to unsustainably deplete natural resources for income.
Unrestricted cash and cash from re-selling distributed food or food purchased with vouchers may be used to fund unsustainable or illicit environmentally damaging coping mechanisms.
Number of environmental cash for work activities which remain as community routine, at least 6 months after the end of the project
Number of environmental cleanup and/or restoration cash for work done
Number of CVA design with community inputs to strengthen environmental capacities.
Mitigation of environmental damage
Planning time with the community to identify unsustainable environmental practices, environmental cash for work activities, continuous monitoring of added value, and exit strategy clearly spelled out.