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.
When monitored on a systematic basis, indicators can be useful project management and decision-making tools. Monitoring and evaluation of the outcomes of response are important to ensure that the effects sought for were indeed delivered, and to help identify possible negative environmental effects in time to allow for an adjustment of activities. It is a necessary part of ensuring that the principle of Do No Harm is fulfilled. Furthermore, an evaluation will help identify best practices and lessons learned that offer valuable insight for making improvements in future aid efforts.
Monitoring Food Security response and activities at the national and sub-national levels is necessary to ensure that different actors work efficiently and effectively in established coordination mechanisms, fulfill the core functions, support efficient delivery of relevant services and demonstrate accountability to affected people. Monitoring also ensures that the architecture of coordination responds to changes in the context and in coordination needs.
Monitoring activities will identify, among other aspects, if any environmental risks and threats, first identified in the MIRA or other initial assessment, have been exacerbated, intensified, or reduced throughout the lifecycle of the response.
Monitoring teams should be well trained on identifying links between programme activities and the environment, not all of which will be immediately visible. The humanitarian actors should identify ecosystems and specific natural resources, such as forests or groundwater, that might be at risk and that need to be protected throughout the life of the response. These impacts need to be monitored throughout the different phases of the response, starting from the identification phase in the survey and assessment.
Mounting evidence shows that advancements in gender equality could have a profoundly positive impact on social and environmental well-being. But if not managed properly, environmental projects can actually spur gender inequality. Without proactively identifying and addressing relevant gender issues, environmental projects have the potential to not only perpetuate disparities but may even widen the gap between men and women. In fact, evidence reveals that there is a correlation between environment and gender; when gender inequality is high, forest depletion, air pollution, and other measures of environmental degradation are also high. Women are active agents of conservation and restoration of natural resources, as their caregiving responsibilities and livelihood activities are often highly dependent on these resources. Additionally, there is growing evidence that community management of natural resources is improved by having management groups consisting of both men and women.
Throughout the project cycle it is vital to consider gender in relation to access to, and management of natural resources.
Natural resource depletion
General environmental degradation could be due to humanitarian response activities that are not suitable for the local context. Pollution and environmental degradation intensify environmental health risks and create harmful living conditions. Pollution of the water, soil, and the air is a threat to human health and wellbeing and exacerbates poverty and inequality. Pollution also affects animals and plants, thus degrading natural ecosystems and their ability to provide essential natural services and resources for society. The economic burden of pollution is significant, and the cost of rehabilitation of degraded environments is often prohibitive.
Existing natural resources need to be managed effectively and sustainably within the site of the response and in the surrounding area, for the benefit and safety of the displaced population and host community. Monitoring activities throughout the lifecycle of the response will need to address potential changes and degradation in these natural resources to ensure the response is sustainable and that popular engagement in protecting such resources is widely known and disseminated.
Monitoring and evaluation can help reduce negative environmental impacts and promote benefits:
Assess whether natural resources are being sustainably managed; help assess impacts and degradation of flora, fauna, and ecosystems; identify existing or potential pollution and health impacts; assess increasing or decreasing resilience to environmental hazards; inform and strengthen environmental practices; assess environmental vulnerabilities and capacities.
Reliable, accurate data on the environment is often not readily available during humanitarian operations. However, the importance of collecting baseline data for planning environmental activities is increasingly apparent, even in emergency situations. A lack of baseline data seriously hampers future monitoring. If environmental issues are not addressed from the outset, there is a considerable risk that the impacts of intervention will result in a loss of natural resources and will require large amounts of funds to reverse the damage caused. Every effort should therefore be made to ensure that relevant environmental data is gathered and analyzed as early as possible in humanitarian intervention.
The nature and scale of these concerns will vary according to the physical location and nature of the response. Specific considerations will need to be made at the various stages of the Humanitarian Project Cycle and will require careful analysis to modify existing tools and best practices to the particular context. It is essential to carry out an initial, rapid, environmental assessment as soon as a site is considered, and certainly before an intervention final decision/design.
Periodic and regular attention should be given to activities addressing the environmental consequences of Nutrition or other services. Humanitarian actors leading the response have to be mindful that negative impacts on the environment, although may be severe, may not always lead to priority interventions, and/or the response capacities amongst humanitarian and environmental organisations may not be sufficient. It is necessary to keep in mind the resources you have and the priority. Having said that, constant monitoring of the environmental impacts and early identification of any risks and threats can be an indication of the overall success of the response.
A monitoring and evaluation plan can help reduce environmental harm and promote environmental benefits. Monitoring can help identify whether natural resources are being managed sustainably for the benefit and safety of the population and future generations.
Monitoring activities throughout the lifecycle of the response should also help identify potential impacts and degradation of flora, fauna, and ecosystems. Rapid Environmental assessments carried out on the onset of the humanitarian emergency will identify environmental concerns that may require immediate action or further investigation. Monitoring should help assess pollution and pollution prevention and potential health impacts – e.g. emissions to air, contaminants to soil and water, from all nutrition activities including procurement, transport and distribution; waste management; sewerage; and feeding and hygiene practices.
Steps you can follow for integrating environment in sector monitoring:
1. Ensure environmental assessment findings are incorporated into project activities and addressed in coordination and implementation. Monitor the environmental dimensions of indicators developed and make use of environmental sources of verification, including proxy data;
2. Involve local environmental actors in the development and implementation of activities, including through community accountability mechanisms and consultations – integrate environmental questions into accountability monitoring and communication with communities;
3. Highlight environmental points in communications, donor reporting, and lessons learned exercises;
4. Generate environmental benefits through your activities (e.g. technology transfer, improved practices, strengthened social capital using the environment as a “bridge”, livelihoods or cash for work activities that address local environmental problems, etc) and guarantee sustainability through hand over to and ownership by the local community.
A monitoring and evaluation plan should be informed by environmental assessments, which may be undertaken by colleagues working in other sectors such as WASH, Shelter, or Health. Monitoring should help effective and sustainable management of natural resources within the response site and in the surrounding areas, for the benefit and safety of the displaced population, the host community, and future generations. Monitoring activities throughout the lifecycle of the response should also address potential impacts and degradation of flora, fauna, and ecosystems. Environmental assessments carried out on the onset of the humanitarian emergency will identify environmental concerns that may require immediate action or further investigation.
Monitoring should assess pollution and pollution prevention and potential health impacts – e.g. emissions to air, contaminants to soil and water from all Food Security activities.
The selection of appropriate indicators will depend upon thorough problem analysis and the definition of programme and project objectives. The recommendation is to choose those indicators that most closely correspond to the goals of a programme or project, based on cultural, environmental, and/or agro-ecological contexts.
The Rapid Environmental Assessment (REA) can contribute to M&E of relief and recovery activities and environmental impacts. While REA provides a baseline of environmental conditions and issues, REA updates provide information useful to monitor progress towards objectives and changes in impact on the environment. This information can be used in evaluating humanitarian and environmental interventions. REA updates can also point to environmental issues to be included in the follow-up to emergency interventions, and identify possible indicators for a formal M&E system.
REA should be considered an integral part of wider situation analysis in all refugee and returnee operations.
As long as the community feels ownership for the plan through developing and implementing it themselves, albeit sometimes with external facilitation, it should also be able to adapt the plan to changing circumstances over time.
REA can contribute to M&E of relief and recovery activities and environmental impacts. While REA provides a baseline of environmental conditions and issues, REA updates provide information useful to monitor progress towards objectives and changes in impact on the environment.
After identifying factors (spatial, social, and economic), environmental hazards, basic unmet needs, and relief and recovery activities capable of influencing negatively the environment, consider developing mitigation strategies including:
Use information gathered previously through MIRA and SEA, or another localised needs assessment about the humanitarian intervention to identify how the sector activities have impacted negatively the environment since the onset of relief and recovery activities.
Based on the results of this analysis, consider the following options:
a) modifying or redesigning the existing relief and recovery efforts involving common-sense changes to address the negative environmental impacts;
b) designing new projects to resolve or mitigate critical issues;
c) acquiring additional information to determine the nature and extent of an environmental threat;
d) producing advocacy material to address the critical environmental threat with the local government and stakeholders.
While some of these activities can be anticipated in the planning and designing phase of the intervention, long-term humanitarian responses develop over time and thus new risks and threats may emerge as a result of new activities and the provision of new services.
Updating REA results ultimately means verifying whether new issues can be classified as newly-founded priorities in regard to the impact on life, livelihoods, and the environment.
As humanitarian interventions extend beyond the initial relief and recovery period, priorities are likely to change.
Constant updating and monitoring of REA will likely evolve into an EIA for longer term-recovery and reconstruction programs.
Adaptation to Climate
Change in Sub-Saharan
Environmental protection strategy developed and implemented (yes/no)
# of environmental projects benefiting local and displaced communities implemented
# of environmental actors involved in coordination meetings
# of individuals implementing climate-resilient land management practices as a result of project work
# of people benefitting from local environmental projects
Prevention of environmental damge
Mitigation of environmental damage