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

Behaviour Change
Food processing - storage
Promotion of cooking practices

Promotion of cooking practices


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

The cooking demonstration can help people to reduce their use of fuel, select more sustainable fuels where they are available, and reduce cooking times, which reduces the impact on their time, health, and the environment.

Different cooking sterilization methods have different environmental impacts. Boiling water using locally sourced timber may be unsustainable and cause air pollution. The use of sterilization tablets may be better for the environment or may require excessive transport emissions.

Disaster-affected communities may employ unsustainable or unsuitable techniques in the preparation and/or cooking of unfamiliar foods, leading to increased cooking times and energy consumption. This can also lead to food wastage.

The food system—encompassing the production, processing, marketing, and purchase of food and related consumer behaviours, resources, and institutions—appears to be struggling to deliver nutritious and healthy diets in an equitable manner.

Biodiversity loss, including critical crop pollinators, and loss of soil quality, will both have substantial impacts on local, national, and global fruit and vegetable supply and thereby on population health.

The relationship between food systems and the environment is complex because environmental changes are both a driver and an outcome of food systems.

Gender, age, disability and HIV/AIDS implications

Ensuring access to food preparation and distribution points for women, disabled persons, and young people is crucial in order to reduce existing inequalities and promote economic and social inclusion as well as limiting environmentally damaging practices.


Environmental Impact Categories

Air pollution
Soil pollution
Water pollution

Climate change
Loss of biodiversity and ecosystems
Natural resource depletion
Soil erosion
Cultural acceptance
Impact on wellbeing / mental health

Summary of Impacts
Summary of Potential environmental impacts
  • Deforestation from overuse of timber (for cooking)
  • Waste from non appropriate cooking practices
Impact detail
Detailed potential environmental impact information
  • Overuse of timber from forests for cooking, sale, and charcoal production has a deep impact on the environment – leading to tree loss which affects other flora and fauna, soil condition, and even local climates.
  • Distributed nutrition items may not be culturally accepted or people may not know how to prepare them, resulting in them going to waste. Poorly managed solid waste can be a consequence of nutrition programmes, leading to pollution and disease spread.
  • Access to adequate milling and processing facilities can reduce environmental impacts because people do not use the surrounding Environnement as a backup. People living in camps require cooking fuel, which may accelerate local deforestation.
  • Cooked meals can have a range of environmental impacts including solid waste pollution from packaging, containers, and utensils; food waste, creating disease vectors/health risks and damage to proximate ecosystems; also vehicle distribution emissions.
  • Soil and water quality, weather patterns, and temperature influence food systems through their impact on the production, storage, and transportation of food. This, in turn, affects localized food environments—the place or places where consumers interact with the food system to buy and consume food (including markets, restaurants, and cafeterias, for example)— by influencing food availability, quality, safety, and affordability. GHG emissions from food production and waste affect temperatures, and eutrophication from agricultural runoff affects water quality.


Summary of environmental activities

1. All kitchen supervisors, cooks, and ancillary personnel should be trained in personal hygiene and the principles of safe food preparation.

2. Cleaners should be employed to keep the kitchen and surrounding areas clean, they should be properly trained and supervised.

3. Water and soap must be provided for personal cleanliness and detergent for cleaning utensils; There must be adequate facilities for waste disposal.

4. Cooked food must not be stored, especially if it contains animal products

5. Review cooking sterilisation options and select the option that has the lowest environmental impact

6. Training in environmental impacts of different fuels sources and provision of more efficient stoves and fuel types

7. Training in good practice solid and organic waste reduction, re-use, recycling and disposal / composting.

Detailed guidance for implementing suggested environmental activities
  • Avoid or minimise the use of wood, charcoal, paraffin, and kerosene stoves – they affect people’s health and damage the environment. A very effective choice can be made at the programme design stage, choosing food commodities that do not need prolonged cooking, or sensitizing communities on techniques that shorten cooking time, such as soaking pulses in water the night before meal preparation.
    Increase education on detrimental cooking fuel risks. Promote the use of environmentally friendly stoves and / or fuels.
    Where perishable food items are offered, consider appropriate facilities to store these, such as watertight containers, coolers, and freezers. Heat, cold, and moisture influence the storage of perishable foods. Adequate mills and other grinding facilities must be available to assisted households and communities.
  • Storage areas should be dry and hygienic, adequately protected from weather, and free of chemical or other contamination. Refer to


  • Aim to compost food waste and try to source food locally where nutritional content is sufficient. In some areas, it may be possible to develop relationships with local agriculture for the removal of food waste from schools, to feed livestock. Work with the integration sector to see if this could be a useful input to agricultural livelihoods or to provide to farmers since this might also increase trust among communities.
  • Organic waste may also be used in low-cost biodigesters for energy production, which could be developed in coordination with the shelter and WASH sectors. If it is necessary to provide packaged food, source compostable packaging using natural materials, wooden cutlery, and avoid the use of Styrofoam and plastic.
  • Training people preparing food in the environmental impacts of different fuels sources and provision of more efficient stoves and fuel types. Training them in practice solid and organic waste reduction, reuse, recycling, and disposal / composting.
Lessons Learnt
Lessons from past experiences

Post distribution monitoring by a local NGO that had distributed LPG stoves in Nepal, after the 2015 earthquake, found that communities and households were continuing to cook over wood-fuelled stoves. Community members advised that this was because LPG stoves only take small pans which are not large enough to cook for large families or community groups. The NGO worked with local market producers to amend the stove design so they could accommodate larger pans. Subsequent monitoring visits demonstrated their use had significantly increased and women’s health had improved from reduced smoke inhalation.

Activity Measurement
Environmental indicators/monitoring examples
  • Number and types of food processing practices whose environmental impact has been assessed and addressed.
  • Food preparation and distribution points’ selection include environmental criteria and mitigation measures.
Activity Status
Main Focus
Focus of suggested activities
  • Prevention of environmental damage
  • Mitigation of environmental damage
Resource implications (physical assets, time, effort)
  • Requires close collaboration with livelihoods programming, ensuring a long-term joint vision.
  • Time is required to properly evaluate food processing, its impact on the environment, and sustainable/low-cost/adaptable solutions to cover needs.
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