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
Provision of livestock (Restocking)

Provision of livestock (Restocking)


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

Livestock is a global resource of significant benefits to society in the form of food, income, nutrients, employment, insurance, traction, and clothing. In the process of providing these benefits, livestock can use a significant amount of land, nutrients, feed, water, and other resources and generate 18% of anthropogenic global greenhouse gases. The total demand for livestock products might almost double by 2050, mostly in the developing world owing to increases in population density, urbanization, and increased incomes.

In an emergency, the provision of livestock should assess the environmental impact of the provision of livestock based on the viable herd size. Extensive and intensive livestock production systems affect biodiversity in different ways.

Gender, age, disability and HIV/AIDS implications

Ask the community to agree on the criteria e.g. firstborn of all donated animals go to widows/disabled/child-headed households.


Environmental impact categories

Climate Change
Loss of biodiversity and ecosystems
Soil pollution
Soil erosion
Water pollution
Water depletion

Summary of Impacts
Summary of potential environmental impacts

Environmental impacts of livestock restocking include:

· Increased competition for natural resources

· Increased water consumption and reduction in groundwater resources

· Water pollution and contamination

· Vegetation stripping and soil erosion

· Loss of biodiversity from increasing demand and consumption of milk, meat, and eggs, which lead to greater need to expand grazing areas, grow crops, and harvest fish to feed livestock

· Land and soil degradation and erosion due to overgrazing

· Deforestation from poor land management

· Waste management problems, soil and watercourse pollution, and health impacts from intensive animal waste

· Land grabbing and internal displacement

· Conflict between livestock farmers and arable farmers over access to and use of natural resources and land.

Impact detail
Detailed potential environmental impact information

Global livestock production uses about 80 percent of agricultural land – 3.4 billion hectares (ha) for grazing including rangelands and pasturelands and 0.5 billion ha of arable lands dedicated to feeding production; the latter figure corresponds to one-third of total cropland (FAO, 2009).

The production of global feed requires 2.5 billion ha of land, which is about half of the global agricultural area, of which 2 billion ha is grassland and about 1.3 billion ha cannot be converted to cropland (Mottet et al., 2017). This means that 57 % of the land used for feed production is not suitable for food production. Livestock consumes about 6 billion tonnes dry matter as feed per year; however, 86 % of this amount is made of materials that are currently not eaten by humans (Mottet et al., 2017).

Over-intensive farming of livestock typically significantly degrades land due to overgrazing. This affects the viability of other animals and flora and whole ecosystems. To feed people sustainably, all actors should be encouraging the increase in the proportion of plants in human diets.

The livestock sector is also responsible for significant amounts of greenhouse gas emissions from transport and also from food processing. Humanitarian actors should consider alternative means of livelihood support rather than strengthening livestock management.

Grazing animals impact the landscape in several ways including creating bare soil, weakening the vegetation cover by grazing, and then by breaking this cover down by trampling.

Animals have erosional impacts on the land surface in both direct and indirect ways. Directly, animals can create, maintain and expand areas of bare soil, upon which the weather forces such as rain and wind act. This facilitates the rapid runoff of rainfall that eventually slightly erodes the surface upon which it gathers and forms gullies downstream. Roughly 35 % of the world’s land degradation is attributed to grazing animals.

Heavy grazing leads to excessive defoliation of herbaceous vegetation, reducing standing biomass, basal cover, and plant species diversity, and a decrease in soil nutrient concentrations often triggered by a decline in net primary productivity as the intensity of grazing increases. Research has generally shown that as vegetation cover declines under heavy stocking rates, the water infiltration rate decreases, and sediment production increases.

In general, biodiversity loss occurs primarily through habitat degradation and destruction, land-use changes, physical modification of rivers or water withdrawal from them, climate change, invasive alien species, overexploitation, and pollution, with disproportionate impacts on poor people and with important implications for livelihoods, sustainable development and green growth.


Summary of environmental activities

· Livestock farming has a substantial negative impact on the environment. Look for alternatives to restocking such as supporting the transition to alternative livelihoods.

· Map what livestock products are used for and seek to develop livelihoods in sustainable alternatives such as plant-based milk, recycled plastic for clothing and insulation, plant-based diet to reduce meat consumption

· Assess and mitigate environmental impacts of restocking schemes.

· Use native species and avoid animals such as goats
· Explore animal loan schemes

· Promote a circular bioeconomy

· Support biogas production for fuel from animal waste

· Support fertiliser production from manure

· Explore agroecology, agroforestry, organic farming, agropastoral and integrated systems to improve productivity and restore degraded pasturelands

Detailed guidance for implementing suggested environmental activities

Review all restocking schemes for environmental impact: use native species and avoid animals such as goats that can destroy local environments. Consider animal loan schemes where animals have to be bred and offspring given to others. Ensure a proper assessment of the balance between available feed resources and the number of animals that have to be supported.

Promote a circular bioeconomy rather than the standard linear livestock approach of extraction, production, use, and disposal. This involves recycling resources at every possible step in agrifood systems, as well as “closing systems” to minimize the loss of resources and nutrients. Increased circularity in food systems – where waste from one process becomes a resource input for another – offers ways to increase the efficiency of food production.

Countries implementing mechanisms that better use the biomass they are already generating are thus expected to see better economic and environmental returns over time. Promoting a circular bioeconomy involves recycling resources at every possible step in agrifood systems and closing systems to minimize the loss of resources and nutrients. Unused crop residues, food waste, and agro-industrial by-products are lost opportunities to recycle and optimize resource use efficiency and can be repurposed for animal feed. Food waste itself can also be put to better use. “Clean” sources of food waste from restaurants and supermarkets can be valuable sources of livestock feed, as long as the food is tested and treated for pathogens to ensure feed safety.

With the right incentives, legislation, and systems in place for feed safety, some countries manage to recycle half of their food waste into high-value “green” livestock feed. For example, soybean cake (a by-product of oil production) has for a long time been used as a feed supplement, and cake from other crops such as cottonseed and sunflower – as well as peels from crops such as potato and cassava – can be recycled as feed. Likewise, whey, a protein-rich by-product of cheese-making can be and has been traditionally fed directly to pigs. Dregs from biofuel production and brewing can make excellent livestock feed. And slaughterhouse waste can be converted to bone meal fertilizer, or used to generate biogas.

Explore agroecology, agroforestry, organic farming, agropastoral and integrated systems to improve productivity and restore degraded pasturelands, with the aim of increasing their resilience, reducing overall GHG emissions and the emissions intensity of livestock production.

Improve management of grasslands, rangelands, and croplands, by prioritizing organic fertilizers and promoting the interactions between plants and microorganisms with the objective of improving the absorption of nitrogen while reducing the need for chemical fertilizers.

Improved feed quality and efficiency to reduce methane and nitrogen emissions, including practices of reducing feed additives, diversification of forage types, breeding insects for livestock feeding.

Multiple existing trade-offs and competing demands for natural resources will intensify, but reducing livestock product demand in places and capitalizing on the positive aspects of livestock systems such as the potential for sustainable intensification of mixed systems, the potential of ecosystems services payments in rangeland systems, and well-regulated industrial livestock production might help achieve the goals of balancing livestock production, livelihoods, and environmental protection.

The impacts of livestock on biodiversity are principally negative, although there are some positive impacts as well. These effects depend on the magnitude (or exposure) of livestock impacts, how sensitive biodiversity is to livestock, and how biodiversity responds to the impacts. The positive impacts include increasing efficiency of production, where fewer natural resources are used for each kg of milk, meat, or eggs produced; increased species diversity in moderately grazed pastures, and pastoral land use protecting wildlife biodiversity in savannah landscapes (Reid et al., 2010).

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

# locations/assisted people where sustainable livelihood solutions have been developed that do not involve animal restocking

# locations / assisted people where more sustainable, efficient and productive livestock methods have been implemented with demonstrable reduced impact on the environment

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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