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

Enabling Activities - Nutrition
Strategic Planning - Nutrition
Nutrition projects definition

Nutrition projects definition


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

Climate change and environmental degradation are driving an escalating number of disasters and vulnerability. This requires radical change across all sectors and systems. For the humanitarian sector, mandated with saving lives and reducing suffering, examining and mitigating its own footprint on the environment should be a clear priority, together with ensuring all of its activities are environmentally sustainable and building communities’ resilience to environmental hazards and disasters.

Integrating environmental sustainability into project planning helps sustainably restore societal functions, services, and the environment they live in. If undertaken with environmental sustainability in mind, recovery and reconstruction can help reduce disaster risk and vulnerability to future hazards and support climate change adaptation. The planning process also provides a good opportunity to address the environmental impacts of humanitarian response operations, which helps to ensure that both communities and the environment can recover in a sustainable way.

Given the strong dependency and interconnectedness of natural resources, the environment, natural hazards, and food security and nutrition, it is necessary to apply an ecosystem approach and to address the underlying drivers of risk and vulnerability by integrating sustainable environmental and natural resource management practices into DRR efforts that seek to make Food Security more resilient.

The global population is increasing, migration to cities is accelerating, and transitions in dietary habits towards more processed and animal source-based foods are becoming commonplace, putting the food system under ever-increasing pressure. Worryingly, the situation seems likely to deteriorate further, largely as a result of increasing pressures on land use and environmental change. Chronic food insecurity can be overcome with typical long-term development measures also used to address poverty, such as education or access to productive resources, such as credit. Conversely, transitory food insecurity is relatively unpredictable and can emerge suddenly. This unpredictability makes planning and programming more difficult and requires different capacities and types of intervention, including early warning capacity and safety net programmes.

Poor urban households frequently live in highly polluted environments where a lack of clean water, sanitation, drainage, and solid-waste disposal services contribute to contamination of water and food, inadequate levels of hygiene, and exposure to vector-borne diseases such as malaria. All of these factors contribute to food insecurity and malnutrition.

Nutritional standards vary according to the population’s existing diet and local food availability. Unnecessary waste can be produced from providing standard nutritional packs. Food security or food insecurity is only one cause of malnutrition in children. National guidelines improve the management of malnourished children. The Food Security response strategy will direct the way malnutrition, malnourishment, or obesity are addressed.

Nutrition procurement can have significant harmful or beneficial impacts on the environment, this includes ensuring products are sustainably sourced, of good quality, have long expiry dates, are stored well to minimise deterioration, and packaged with the minimum packaging to protect them but keep them lightweight, and are transported using minimum emissions efficient routes.

Warehousing/food storage has the potential to create significant environmental impacts from packaging, transport, refrigeration, food spoilage or expiry, and waste.

Gender, age, disability and HIV/AIDS implications

Additionally, the stakeholder analysis should explore ways to equitably share the natural resource capital assets, with particular attention paid to the poorest and most disadvantaged groups and to women, to make sure their needs are met. The analysis should also consider that men and women use and/or have access to different resources. For example, women are often responsible for firewood and wild food plant collection and men often undertake hunting and logging. Both men and women may fish, but they often catch different fish species in different places with different techniques.

Review the effectiveness of the nutrition programs for women and men as well as boys and girls in different age groups.


Environmental Impact Categories

Air pollution
Soil pollution
Water pollution

Climate Change
Loss of biodiversity and ecosystems
Natural resource depletion
Soil erosion
Noise pollution
Visual Intrusion
Cultural acceptance
Impact on mental health

Summary of Impacts
Summary of Potential environmental impacts
  • Key concerns from overlooking environmental sustainability whilst defining nutrition projects include:
  • Potentially increased vulnerability to environmental hazards
  • Diminished provisioning capacity of local ecosystems
  • Public health risks from pollution from waste
  • Unsustainable Nutrition activities, exacerbating existing or creating new environmental impacts
  • Loss of natural resources and biodiversity impeding recovery and diminishing community resilience
  • Deforestation, and water and soil degradation.
  • Environmental impacts undermine the short- and long-term effectiveness and sustainability of Nutrition programming outcomes and can exacerbate existing or introduce new environmental challenges. This can also lead to a loss of livelihoods and biodiversity, impede future recovery efforts as well as diminish community resilience.
Impact detail
Detailed potential environmental impact information
  • Deforestation, and water and soil degradation effects as a consequence of responses that do not consider environmental measures
  • Responses should protect and support food security while limiting negative environmental impacts. Response actions that do not consider the environment will risk the sustainability of the implementation because as in a loop, environmental degradation can cause livelihood insecurity, and livelihood insecurity can lead to environmental degradation. For example, an intervention that considers firewood collection for producing traditional charcoal makes it possible for the people to cook food and generate income from its sale. However, it can also result in deforestation, soil erosion and increases the risk for flooding. Similarly, some coping strategies, such as the sale of land, migration of whole families, or deforestation, may permanently undermine future livelihood.

For example, global and national modeling studies suggest that yields of major cereals will decline under scenarios of increased temperature, especially in tropical countries. Water scarcity threatens the ability of large parts of the world to continue its present agricultural growth, and agricultural land is increasingly in conflict with infrastructure development and with protected areas.


Summary of environmental activities
  • Include environmental considerations in objectives, outcomes, and activities to ensure they are addressed throughout the response (See technical sub-sectors and related activities). Ensure project activities conform to better management practices or sector-specific guidelines.
  • Identify and review national nutritional standards against market availability/population consumption. Review the environmental sustainability of meeting these standards with local foods versus changing to alternatives e.g. drought/flood tolerant / higher yield / increased nutrition crops. Adapt nutritional packs to meet the actual needs, to avoid waste.
  • Develop environmental indicators or include environmental elements in the humanitarian sector or project indicators. Ensure that the project operates within the carrying capacity of the natural ecosystems. Food production, market availability and quality, and market food prices are all good indicators to provide early warning of malnutrition.
  • Assess the baseline social and ecological resilience and environmental sustainability of health services associated with the delivery and monitoring of nutritional outcomes.
    Engage local (and/or regional) environmental experts (building partnerships), for example from local authorities or universities.
  • Screen planned humanitarian activities for their environmental impacts and risks – environmental and social safeguards.
  • Develop plans to prevent and mitigate environmental risks identified (See preparedness activity);
    Aim to generate environmental benefits from your intervention – do not just limit yourself to mitigating environmental impacts. This is an opportunity to build resilience.
  • In protracted crises, making use of local capacities, increase the accountability of the response and root it in the local context. See “Accountability and Communicating with Communities” section.
    Mainstream environment through each technical subsector.
  • Inclusion of environmental safeguards into institutional forms for project proposals (e.g. concerning project description, reporting requirements, etc.)
Detailed guidance for implementing suggested environmental activities

Environmental sensitive project definition will look at mitigating impact or enhancing environmental benefits of the project.
MITIGATE impacts by modifying the project design, or compensating for negative impacts
The design phase is where livelihood project planners can play a critical role in addressing the potential environmental implications of livelihood project activities. The project design should reflect the information gathered during the assessment phase in terms of the number of resources that will be used to implement and maintain the livelihood activity. Formulate exit strategy as part of project design.

To mitigate look at :

– How can the direct and indirect impacts be reduced/ avoided? Understand the climatic conditions of the project area to foster adapted practices.
– Have you reviewed best practices, case studies, etc. from other organisations doing similar types of activities?
– Have you consulted with the local community/government to identify traditional and environmentally responsible solutions?
– Use secondary data such as reports on environmental determinants of health, air pollution, deforestation, water quality, waste management, mining, agricultural pests, and similar. Disaggregated data from other sources such as clinic/hospital admissions can tell you a lot about the environment and its relationship to vulnerable groups.

ENHANCE environmental benefits in the project: Aim to generate environmental benefits from your intervention – do not just limit yourself to mitigating environmental impacts. This is an opportunity to build resilience (e.g. through changes to livelihoods, use of new technologies and environmental management approaches which can contribute to peacebuilding and integration between affected populations and host communities, improved food security, risk reduction and increased environmental stewardship through training and capacity building)

To enhance environmental benefits look at:

– After impact assessment and mitigation, what other enhancement measures can be added to the project?
– Can enhancement activities be combined with other sectors?
Develop approaches, aligned with agroecological principles, to support nutrition and sustainable diets, within the context of gender and climate impacts of production, distribution, and consumption of healthy, sustainable diets.
Promoting the use of local underutilized and neglected species high in nutritional value.
If inputs are required for the livelihoods project, such as timber for constructing markets or seed stock for agriculture, the project manager should ensure that the materials are sustainable (e.g., use sustainable timber or local noninvasive species for agriculture plants). Note: Better management practices (BMPs) are flexible, field-tested, and cost-effective techniques that protect the environment by helping to measurably reduce major impacts of growing commodities on the planet’s water, air, soil, and biological diversity. They can also help producers make a profit in an environmentally sustainable way. BMPs have been developed for a wide range of activities such as fishing, farming, and forestry.

Hereunder are some examples of environmental inclusive programmatic guidance:

• Focus on a specific territory or geographic area at the sub-national level that is prone to natural hazards and/or other threats to food and nutrition security, such as watersheds or agro-ecological zones.

• Assess packaging. Plan / ensure reductions eg through contractual supplier agreements; Work with existing suppliers to reduce packaging and ensure all packaging is re-usable / recyclable. Plan wisely transportation plan (considering, route, optimising distribution…).
• Identify entry points to support the development of policies, plans, and actions to support healthy diets and reduce diet-related illnesses by supporting biodiversity conservation, sustainable use, and ecosystem restoration as a measure to maximize co-benefits in the development of healthy, sustainable, and resilient food systems.
• Support policy coherence across sectors and within relevant reporting processes developed to track and monitor country progress toward sustainable development targets and objectives, including the SDGs, Paris Climate Agreement, and others.
• Assess items to be procured; sources and opportunities to reduce environmental impact. (e.g. vehicles, food, stoves, fuel, buckets, scales, blankets, beds, tents, lights, utensils, crockery, feeding cups, tubes, tape, medicines, Personal Protective Equipment, cleaning products and equipment, boilers, record books, IT equipment, vitamin and mineral supplements, fridges, ).
It is important to consider the species of food being procured and imported, especially with live non-native species. Non-native species can severely hurt local ecosystems. If the food is grown locally, consider the local environmental impacts (water usage, soil health, etc.)

Lessons Learnt
Lessons from past experiences

Nutrition project definition can be too narrowly focused on helping people recover from severe malnutrition, without sufficient thought to support communities in meeting their own long-term nutritional requirements in an environmentally sustainable way.

The UNEP/OCHA Joint Environment Unit, an implementing partner of the inter-agency project on “Adaptation to Climate Change in Sub-Saharan African Humanitarian Situations”, aims to strengthen climate change adaptation in target humanitarian hotspots. The project supports vulnerable communities, internally displaced people, refugees, and host communities facing climate-related risks.

Working in Burundi, Chad, and Sudan, home to some of the world’s largest displaced populations, vulnerable communities, highly exposed to climatic risks.

They addressed meeting people’s nutritional needs over the long term through contributing to a wider nutrition project definition, emphasising improving cleaner energy access, water management, and reforestation:
• 48,500 improved cookstoves adopted.
• 305 schools adopting fuel-efficient cooking practices and technologies.
• 63 solar panels installed in Burundi.
• 4 health clinics and 5 schools enabled to provide improved health, nutrition, and educational services.
• 1,920 hectares of forest planted/ rehabilitated.
• 3,064,000 trees successfully planted.

Activity Measurement
Environmental indicators/monitoring examples
  • # of plans developed to mitigate environmental risks identified;
  • # of environmental enhancement activities included into the project
    Use of environmental and social screening/safeguard tools to define Livelihood activities;
Activity Status
Main Focus
Focus of suggested activities
  • Prevention of environmental damage
  • Mitigation of environmental damage
  • Environmental enhancement
Resource implications (physical assets, time, effort)

Include environmental actors and community organisations with environment-related interests in planning and organisations involved in natural resource management in community consultations and focus group discussions;

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