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

Agricultural livelihoods
Recover livelihoods - Livestock
Livestock shelter and settlement

Livestock shelter and settlement


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

The impact of support to livestock settlement and shelter upon the local environment should be assessed and minimized. This is particularly important if livestock shelter construction requires or encourages the harvesting of locally available material that can risk permanent environmental degradation.

Livestock grazing land alone covers about one-quarter of the Earth’s land area and accounts for approximately 70% of agricultural land. Under current trends, the projected land base required by 2050 to support livestock production alone is projected to exceed 30–50% of current agricultural areas.

Gender, age, disability and HIV/AIDS implications

Consult the affected populations, both women and men, concerning indigenous animal housing and settlement practices.

Shelters built at some distance from human habitation may expose people to risk, particularly women and children, especially in conflict areas.

Practitioners aim to meet the livestock shelter needs of the most vulnerable in the community to avoid unsustainable use of local materials or unsustainable concentration of livestock in confined areas. This may be particularly important in camp settings.


Environmental impact categories

Loss of biodiversity and ecosystems
Soil contamination
Soil erosion
Water pollution
Water depletion

Summary of Impacts
Summary of potential environmental impacts

Environmental impacts of livestock shelter and settlement include:

· Competition for natural resources
· Overuse of local trees for timber
· Water consumption and reduction in groundwater reserve
· Water pollution and contamination
· Vegetation stripping and soil erosion
· Loss of biodiversity
· Land and soil degradation
· Deforestation from poor land management
· Waste management problems, soil and watercourse pollution, and health impacts from intensive animal waste
· Land grabbing and internal displacement.

Impact detail
Detailed potential environmental impact information

Livestock, to a greater or lesser degree, place a burden on the ecosystem in which they live through their consumption of feed resources and, in the case of more intensive systems, through the generation of waste products.

When these ecosystems have been severely affected by an emergency, the impacts may well be exacerbated both in the short term and during recovery. In such situations, it may be questionable whether people’s livelihoods are best served by programmes that involve improvements in feeding to encourage the rapid re-establishment of livestock populations. Additionally, the environmental costs of transporting feed should be taken into account when considering environmental impact.

Beyond land-use change, livestock systems contribute to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions directly, mostly through enteric fermentation and manure, through the production of feed and other inputs, and downstream in transportation, cooling, storage, and processing of livestock products.

Displaced persons may move to camps with their livestock, resulting in unusually high livestock populations in confined areas. Although the provision of feed and water may sustain livestock in these situations, sanitary issues must be considered. The use of nearby grazing and water points already in use by local residents can lead to overuse and environmental damage.

Displacement and restrictions on migration because of conflict or other factors limit the normal movement of animals and concentrate livestock; which may result in overgrazing and deterioration of animal health.

The cutting of the trees to provide construction timber for shelters and enclosures, or to fire bricks is a particular risk.


Summary of environmental activities

Assess the environmental impacts of livestock shelter and settlement and address them. These can include:

· Raise farmer and community awareness on the environmental impacts of overgrazing

· Identify less intensive livestock practices

· Supporting farmers in exploring alternative livelihoods

· Look for efficiencies in livestock watering arrangements

· Encourage move to a more plant-based diet

· Protect water sources

· Greywater capture and re-use

· Rainwater harvesting

·  Groundwater recharge

· Identify sustainable livestock shelter construction materials

· Assess and reduce land-use change and protect biodiversity loss

· Improve manure and slaughterhouse waste management.

· Use manure and slaughterhouse waste to generate fertilizer and biogas

· Provide support in understanding environmental drivers of animal disease.

Detailed guidance for implementing suggested environmental activities

Look for strategies to reduce intensive livestock practices such as supporting farmers in exploring alternative animals, moving to crop farming, or other non-livestock livelihoods.

Assess existing livestock watering arrangements and impacts on the environment. Public information campaigns and cooking demonstrations to support the move to a more plant-based diet. Protect water sources, explore opportunities for efficiencies, ensure capture and re-use of greywater and develop rainwater harvesting and groundwater recharge.

Support farmers in identifying and adopting sustainable livestock shelter construction materials. This could include planting living fences as animal enclosures, or re-use of construction waste to build shelters. If this is not possible then work with them to grow more timber than they use – support them in identifying indigenous fast-growing tree species.

Assess and reduce land-use change and protect biodiversity loss or reduced ecosystem services. Improve manure and slaughterhouse waste management. Assess and work to reduce the excessive application of manure from livestock production leading to nutrient overloading of cropland or watercourses. Manure and slaughterhouse waste can be used to generate fertilizer and biogas as a source of renewable energy. Improved agricultural and livestock waste management include manure fermentation facilities, to reduce methane emissions.

Assess and work with farmers to understand and reduce the impacts of overgrazing and grassland degradation. Carefully assess and understand any local conflict and avoid livestock distribution if this is likely to exacerbate tensions. Provide support in understanding environmental drivers of animal disease.

Lessons Learnt
Lessons from past experiences

PAG Uganda has worked with local communities to help them assess the environmental impacts of different livestock against their economic and nutritional benefits. Communities have shifted away from vegetation stripping goats, and are sustainably managing pig, cow, and small animal stock sizes.

Activity Measurement
Environmental indicators/monitoring examples

Assessment and planning for livestock shelter and settlement are based on community consultation, indigenous knowledge, consideration of local environmental impact, and the potential for sustainable livelihoods.

Settlement supports safe and sustainable cohabitation with humans, and provides a secure, healthy, and sustainable environment for livestock.

Activity Status
Main Focus
Focus of suggested activities

Prevention of environmental damage

Mitigation of environmental damage

Resource implications (physical assets, time, effort)

This requires consideration and effective planning from the very beginning of the intervention.

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