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

Technical assistance – Temporary shelter
Immediate relief
Fuel and household energy supply

Fuel and household energy supply


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

People need energy to cook, provide light, heat, and cooling. Energy can be sourced from renewable or non-renewable sources. Non-renewable sources usually use fossil fuels which contribute to climate change, which ultimately affects everyone globally and locally. Some renewable sources such as wood can be used at an unsustainable rate and can cause indoor and outdoor air pollution.

In addition, environmental conditions such as the availability of wood and water resources may impact the relief actions and relief responses by affected people. For example, low availability of trees for firewood. This may also result in the consumption of endangered species of trees, which can in turn affect the viable functioning of local ecosystems.

Gender, age, disability and HIV/AIDS implications

Ensure equal participation, supply, distribution, and monitoring of environmentally appropriate fuel and household energy supplies across all gender, ages, and disabilities.


Environmental impact categories

Air pollution
Loss of biodiversity and ecosystems
Natural resource depletion
Soil contamination
Water contamination

Summary of Impacts
Summary of potential environmental impacts

1. Natural resource depletion and deforestation due to unsustainable consumption of fuels such as wood.

2. Air contamination due to the burning of poor quality fuels such as crop waste, dung, wood, charcoal or kerosene.

3. Air and soil contamination due to spills of fuels

4. Pollution and health and safety impacts from lighting such as candles and kerosene lamps

5. Potential benefits from the use of renewable sources of electricity

Impact detail
Detailed potential environmental impact information

1. Energy usage practices for cooking and heating can have significant impacts on the local environment, particularly if low-quality fuels and unimproved burners are being used. When wood and charcoal are fuel sources, deforestation can be a significant concern, degrading local ecosystems and increasing community vulnerability to environmental hazards. Also, indiscriminate biomass harvesting, either by the users or local vendors, can lead to deforestation and environmental degradation. Increased contact with wildlife during biomass harvesting leads to increased opportunities for poaching and hunting for consumption, which in turn can lead to the transmission of zoonotic diseases.

2. Unimproved cookstoves/burners, paraffin/kerosene stoves, and even LPG stoves cause indoor and outdoor air pollution, with negative health implications. Simple home-made stoves such as three-stone fires and mud stoves are often crudely built and have very low combustion efficiencies, wasting fuel and generating harmful air pollutants. This is a particular concern if wood or charcoal is used as this exacerbates deforestation, or if plastic or other toxic materials are burned. The burning of poor quality fuels such as crop waste, dung, wood, charcoal or kerosene is inefficient and leads to indoor and outdoor air pollution and greenhouse gas pollution. In outdoors, open fires have very low combustion efficiencies, wasting fuel and generating harmful air pollutants.

3. Solid fuels such as agricultural or livestock waste, wood or charcoal are typically cheaper to procure however are more energy inefficient and harmful to human health. Liquid or gas fuels, which have been processed, are typically more energy efficient and less detrimental to human health and the environment. However, if the new fuel type required is difficult to access (e.g. having to pay for LPG where wood was freely collected), users may revert back to their previous practices. In addition, stoves or burners which are incompatible with user preferences (e.g. inconvenient for preparing customary cuisines) may become irrelevant, with users reverting back to their original appliances which may not be as energy efficient. Improper storage of fuels can render the fuel unusable and a waste of resources. Improperly stored fuel can lead to decreased combustion efficiency and increased generation of air pollutants. Leaking fuels (inappropriate containers) can also cause health and environmental hazards.

4. The energy consumption for lighting can have environmental implications. Some lighting options, such as lamps or candles, also present safety and health hazards because they contain fuels. Also, energy supply may deplete already scarce non-renewable resources and create environmental concerns such as deforestation and indoor air pollution. The lack of windows or areas where outdoor light can enter increases energy consumption because of the need for artificial lighting, increasing energy consumption.

5. Environmental impacts of energy supply can be positive if energy sources are renewable and non polluting.


Summary of environmental activities

1. Assess energy usage practices and biomass sources. Plan more sustainable alternatives. Promote energy efficiency practices.

2. Move to energy-efficient stoves. Assess user preferences to ensure new stoves will be used.

3. Promote movement away from the use of polluting solid fuels

4. Promote or supply more sustainable sources of lighting, such as solar-powered LED lamps and mobile phone chargers.

5. Information campaigns on less polluting and renewable energy sources. Support procurement / local manufacture / assembly / generation.

Detailed guidance for implementing suggested environmental activities

1. Assess energy usage practices for cooking and heating, availability, and potential sustainability of natural biomass. Plan for more sustainable alternatives, solar electricity, biomass from animal or human waste. Promote energy efficiency practices such as using residual cooking heat for household heating.

2. The use of improved cookstoves with high efficiencies should be promoted, and training in efficient cooking practices provided where appropriate. Alternative fuels, such as LPG, are cleaner, more energy-efficient, and minimizes local ecosystem degradation. Appliances compatible with a range of different fuels improve energy security and resilience. Due to health risks kerosene should not be promoted unless there is no alternative. Promote replacing open fires as a minimum with improved burners which optimize combustion efficiencies. Stove selection should consider the availability and affordability of the required fuel source, including affected persons’ access to sources of income, and pursue complementary fuel provision interventions if appropriate. Adequate and appropriate household space for the amount of fuel provided should be confirmed prior to distribution. The exhaust of stoves or heaters should not be in an enclosed shelter as this exacerbates indoor air pollution. Shelters should include a dedicated area for cooking with open ventilation or chimney structure to expel exhaust gases.

3. Educate communities on combustion inefficiencies and pollution from solid fuels. Encourage them to move to more sustainable alternatives.

4. Technologies, such as LED lighting, which provide energy efficiency are often also more cost-effective in the long run. These should be of an approved standard to provide durability and cost-effectiveness, also to minimize environmental impact and waste. Ensure that energy consumption does not deplete already scarce non-renewable resources and work to minimise the negative localized environmental concerns of energy consumption such as deforestation and indoor air pollution. Sufficient access to outdoor light reduces the need for artificial lighting, reducing potential energy consumption and indoor air pollution. Windows should be openable and can include awnings or shutters for protection against direct sunlight or privacy. Consider the proximity of other structures or trees which may limit the availability of natural light.

5. Lead information campaigns with local communities, markets/businesses, and local authorities on less polluting and renewable energy sources. Support them with procurement or even local manufacture/assembly/generation projects.

Lessons Learnt
Lessons from past experiences

Mercy Corps found that solar lanterns were a welcomed and critical addition to the NFRI kits, which promoted household safety, savings, and control over the allocation of time. However, the inclusion of solar lanterns into the NFRI kits could have easily been omitted. An important factor in the decision to include solar lighting was Mercy Corps Nepal’s (MCN) pre-existing relationship with solar light distributors in Kathmandu. Without these relationships, and internal champions for solar lighting within MCN, it would not have been as easy to make quick decisions to incorporate a new product, like solar lanterns, into NFRI kit contents in the first 24 hours following the earthquake. Likewise, coordination with private sector solar lighting distributors and service providers helps protect existing clean energy markets from spoilage.

Key Takeaways:

1. Energy access for cooking, lighting, and powering should be a deliberate consideration in acute emergency response efforts
2. Coordination of energy actors, including the private sector, is critical in ensuring an efficient response that does not compromise long-term sustainable energy access goals
3. Development of relationships with local solar distributors and collection of information on national clean energy distribution networks before an emergency helps speed decision-making and coordination in the critical first 72 hours of an emergency


Activity Measurement
Environmental indicators/monitoring examples

# of shelters supplied with efficient or low polluting stoves

# of shelters supplied with renewable energy

Activity Status
Main Focus
Focus of suggested activities
  • Prevention of environmental damage
  • Mitigation of environmental damage
  • Environmental enhancement
Resource implications (physical assets, time, effort)

Field and desktop research to understand the needs and behaviours of people and the available resources for biomass. Extra time to research sustainable products to be procured locally. Requires coordination with procurement and logistics teams. Can take longer to action changes.

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