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

Food Security
Food Access
Targeting, distribution and delivery
Food for work

Food for work


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

Food for work programmes can create dependency and can prevent people from restoring their previous livelihoods or engaging in new long-term sustainable livelihoods.

If designed well, food for work can have a positive impact on the environment, if designed to address environmental protection issues/awareness and encourage community behaviour change. Where markets and livelihoods are not functioning, Food for Work can be used as a mechanism to sustain a target population whilst restoring infrastructure that enables markets and livelihoods to function. This can help communities to avoid resorting to environmentally harmful coping strategies.

Gender, age, disability and HIV/AIDS implications

The most vulnerable (marginalised groups, women/children heading households) might be the ones the most likely to feel forced to resort to unsustainable/unsafe coping methods. Consult them and assess their specific needs. Involving at-risk groups in environmental food for work activities could help to empower them by being drivers of change and having a positive environmental impact.


Environmental impact categories

Soil pollution
Water pollution
Loss of biodiversity and ecosystems
Natural Resource depletion
Soil erosion

Summary of Impacts
Summary of potential environmental impacts

Overconsumption of natural sensitive resources.
Environmental damaging coping strategies from communities.
FW activities if badly designed, can cause air, water, and soil pollution, block drainage channels and natural watercourses, damage fragile ecosystems, and lead to depletion of natural resources.

Impact detail
Detailed potential environmental impact information

Where markets and livelihoods are not functioning as a result of a humanitarian crisis, communities might feel forced to resort to environmentally harmful strategies such as overconsumption of natural sensitive resources. An example is wildlife being taken for food, perhaps causing local extinctions; this wildlife may be improperly handled or cooked which could spread disease between animals and people.

Increased numbers of people may resort to dangerous occupations, such as gold panning and informal mining, to try to make money.

Another example is unsustainable tree cutting for firewood or for producing charcoal, to cook food, or to generate income from its sale. It can result lead to unsustainable deforestation, soil erosion and increase the risk of flooding. Similarly, some coping strategies, such as the sale of land, migration of whole families, or deforestation, may permanently undermine future food security.


Summary of suggested environmental activities

Assess and identify community environmental coping strategies.

Propose alternative food for work environmental restoration activities to provide both temporary incomes and strengthen the local environment’s capacity to grow food sustainably.

Ensure FfW activities are not undermining people’s capacities to recover or establish their own long-term sustainable livelihoods.

Ensure clear communication on the aim of the support as well awareness campaigns on environmentally harmful coping strategies.

Detailed guidance for implementing suggested environmental activities
  • Conduct a community assessment to identify environmentally unsustainable coping strategies. Define a food for work approach and awareness campaign (messages) that encourages long-term behaviour change that strengthens the local environment.
  • Consider environmental Food for Work activities such as water retention ponds, regreening of urban spaces, and waste processing and recycling livelihoods (consider safety and existing structures).
  • Food for work can also support environmental risk reduction of infrastructure/assets.
Lessons Learnt
Lessons from past experiences

Food for work activities have been criticised by some undermining people’s ability to build their own livelihoods, creating dependency, and the work itself causing environmental damage. These negative impacts should be considered in programme design.

Activity Measurement
Environmental indicators/monitoring examples

Number of environmental food for work activities which remain as community routine, at least 6 months after the end of the project

Activity Status
Main Focus
Focus of suggested activities

Environmental enhancement

Resource implications (physical assets, time, effort)

Planning time with the community to identify environmental food for work activities, continuous monitoring of added value, and exit strategy clearly drawn up.

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