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 storage
Food processing

Food processing


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

Access to food-processing facilities, such as cereal grinding mills, enables people to prepare food in the form of their choice and saves time for other productive activities.

The energy used for food processing (transformation and conservation) could negatively affect the environment.

Food processing operations produce many varied types of wastes which include solid and liquid effluents and, to a much lesser extent, volatile organic compounds, e.g. refrigerants.

Gender, age, disability and HIV/AIDS implications

Individuals who may require assistance with food storage and processing are young children, older people, people with disabilities, and people living with HIV. Outreach programmes or additional support may be necessary for people who have difficulty providing food to their dependants, such as parents and people with disabilities.


Environmental impact categories

Air pollution
Soil pollution
Water pollution
Climate change
Natural Resource depletion

Summary of Impacts
Summary of potential environmental impacts

Air, soil, and water pollution from chemicals, pesticides, gas, and food waste (if not properly stored), and also from solid waste from packaging; wastewater; and energy use.

Impact detail
Detailed potential environmental impact information

Food processing can lead to wasting of perishable resources. There may be pollution from organic food waste and solid waste from packaging if processes are not well managed.

Energy may be wasted from the use of inefficient poorly maintained equipment or inefficient processes. Greenhouse gases will be released from fossil fuel energy sources and local air pollution if timber or charcoal are burned.

Access to adequate milling and other food processing facilities reduces some damage to the environment because people do not need to use the surrounding environmental resources in the same way. People living in camps require cooking fuel, which may accelerate local deforestation.


Summary of suggested environmental activities

Assess energy sources and the potential to use alternative renewable energy sources; water usage and organic, liquid, chemical, and solid waste pollution from food processing. Consider energy needs for food processing and cold chains for food preservation. Ensure proper management of solid and liquid effluent wastes by a qualified specialist or organisation.

Detailed guidance for implementing suggested environmental activities

Where perishable food items are to be processed, consider the provision of appropriate facilities to store them, such as watertight containers, coolers, and freezers. Heat, cold, and moisture influence the storage of perishable foods. Adequate mills and other grinding or processing facilities must be available to assisted households and communities.

Producers and local consumers must assess the implications of new technologies for local production systems, cultural practices, and the natural environment and adapt programmes before adopting the technologies. When introducing new technologies, provide appropriate community consultations, information, and training. If possible, coordinate with livelihood experts and government ministries. Ensure ongoing technological support, future accessibility to the technology, and assess its commercial viability.

Ensure waste is assessed and reduced. Assess production efficiencies and look for opportunities to improve them. Procure efficient equipment where possible. Ensure greywater is captured and re-used where possible and organic preservatives and additives are used in preference to artificial colourings and chemicals. Support communities in a effective cleaning processes that do not harm the environment.

Test wastewater effluent and provide for its treatment.

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

Food processing activities integrate environmental analysis.

Number and types of food processing practices which meet agreed environmental impact criteria.

Activity Status
Main Focus
Focus of suggested activities

Prevention of environmental damage
Environmental enhancement

Resource implications (physical assets, time, effort)

This requires time to evaluate food processing, its impact on the environment and sustainable / low cost / adaptable solutions to meet the need

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