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.

back to activity

VEHA - Field Implementation Guidance

Non-agricultural livelihoods
Diversifying livelihoods
Food processing livelihoods

Food processing livelihoods


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

Food processing and production can cause substantial waste and pollution or be adapted to minimise waste and pollution or even to bring direct benefits to the environment.

Packaging is one of the main contributors to solid waste pollution in humanitarian contexts – it can also have value to recipients of assistance – this should be analysed as part of an assessment of how packaging can be better managed.

Packaging can cause solid waste pollution, particularly affecting bodies of water, and create disease vectors. It also can consume significant volumes of natural resources for an extremely limited product’s lifespan. Other significant impacts are electricity and water use, use of chemicals, and transport.

Gender, age, disability and HIV/AIDS implications

Women, disabled people, and people from minorities usually have fewer decision-making rights regarding food processing methods. It is often necessary to work with the people who own the land, facilities or who purchase their products in order to create change.


Environmental impact categories

Air pollution
Soil pollution
Water pollution
Climate change
Natural Resource Depletion
Water depletion

Summary of Impacts
Summary of potential environmental impacts

Potential air, soil, and water pollution from food processing waste

Greenhouse gas emissions from manufacturing/processing energy use

Over-consumption of water for manufacturing

Contamination of soils, surface and deep water from poorly managed chemicals and greywater

Manufacturing process production of solid, liquid, and hazardous waste (including chemical waste).

Impact detail
Detailed potential environmental impact information

Different energy sources used in food processing impact the environment at different levels and in different ways (deforestation, air pollution, diesel emissions, etc). Renewable sources of energy should be prioritized as well as measures to reduce energy consumption and energy waste should be adopted.

The quality and maintenance of energy infrastructure are important to avoid waste and reduce risks of accidents and energy shortages.

Water is a scarce natural resource in many regions. Over-abstraction and water waste can harm ecosystems, humans, flora, and fauna, and may trigger conflict over access to it. The use of contaminated water is likely to contaminate food and drink products during processing, causing harm to human health.

Greywater that is not properly managed can cause soil pollution and the spread of vector-borne diseases. Similarly, disposal of untreated wastewater can pollute soil and groundwater, harming the human, plant, and animal life, degrading ecosystems, and can lead to disease spread. Untreated wastewater can result in loss of soil fertility, eutrophication (loss of aquatic life), among other issues.

General solid waste can cause pollution and create disease vectors. Hazardous waste, including chemicals, can pollute the air, soil, and watercourses and harm plants and animals, and enter the food chain.


Summary of environmental activities

Work with land and facilities owners to help them understand and address the negative environmental impacts of food processing methods.

Map and plan for more efficient natural resource use in livelihoods. This includes a reduction of water and energy consumption, focus on materials and packing efficiency, waste reduction, and green transport.

Assess and analyse manufacturing energy consumption for the goods provided and/or any livelihoods manufacturing interventions

Support sustainable / energy-efficient products markets

Ensure proper water management in manufacturing process

Plan to minimise manufacturing waste production and ensure proper waste management.

Detailed guidance for implementing suggested environmental activities

Work out who has decision-making rights regarding food processing – who owns the land and facilities, who pays for energy or supplies. Work with them to help them understand the negative environmental impacts and also to see the benefits, including long-term financial benefits, of reducing negative environmental impacts.

Train on reducing energy use – purchasing efficient equipment, switching lights and machines off after use – and installation of mechanisms to reduce energy consumption such as timers, voltage regulators, and presence sensors. Stimulate healthier behaviors such as turning off air conditioners and opening the windows, improving air quality, and reducing risks of respiratory diseases.

Stimulate and support the implementation of decentralized energy generation such as solar and wind, both on-grid and off-grid. Link renewable energy production to the local market/grid.

Plan for water quality testing and treatment of manufacturing wastewater effluent. Explore opportunities for onsite/nearby water treatment eg using reedbeds to avoid polluting the environment. Review and optimise water use, plan for greywater re-use, and adequate disposal when reuse is not feasible.

Introduce better practices to increase livelihood resilience to climate change effects, particularly to risks of water scarcity. Advocate with local governments on implementing public policies to support livelihood transition to more sustainable solutions such as granting credits to acquire water-saving equipment. Reduce the rates of vector-borne diseases and improve public health by treating the water.

Redesign food processing methods to improve focus on resource use, efficiency, and waste reduction, including packaging and raw materials quantities. Support existing recycling livelihoods such as cooperatives and support the implementation of new recycling livelihoods, including processing organic waste and production of biogas. Re-use/ use recycled raw materials. Improve health and safety of workforce who produce or work with chemicals and other hazardous materials.

Separate and sort solid waste and manage hazardous waste appropriately (note complications in areas where hazardous waste management facilities don’t exist). Assess and address protection risks associated with informal waste picking and support informal workers, particularly vulnerable women, on accessing the formal labor market or developing social businesses.

Lessons Learnt
Lessons from past experiences

An NGO working in Ethiopia has reported that supporting people to have their own individual or communal food-processing facilities, such as cereal grinding mills reduces food waste and environmental harm as well as giving them greater choice and more time for other activities.

Food processing waste can be better managed in communal facilities, including capturing and treating liquid effluents.

Activity Measurement
Environmental indicators/monitoring examples

Number of food processing processes reviewed and amended to reduce their negative environmental impacts.

Activity Status
Main Focus
Focus of suggested activities

Prevention of environmental damage

Resource implications (physical assets, time, effort)

Time and resources to assess production processes and to work with food processors to adapt.

to top
icon-menu icon-close icon-account icon-arrow icon-down icon-back icon-pointed-arrow icon-left icon-up icon-bookmark icon-share twitter facebook2 printer envelope icon-close-alt icon-top icon-loading icons / login