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
Provisioning livelihoods
Provision of production inputs

Provision of production inputs


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

Agricultural livelihoods depend on the environment in many ways, including hydrology, climate, water resources, soil quality, temperatures, pests, and diseases. Increased or reduced precipitation, changes in climate, or extreme weather events often impact crop production which could ultimately lead to food insecurity and even displacement. For example, if dust storms damage or bury seedlings, cause soil loss (especially topsoil), and damage irrigation canals, agricultural production is likely to be reduced, further increasing soil erosion and accelerating land degradation/desertification, leading to still further reduced food availability, increasing pressure on farmers to migrate.

Production inputs supported during humanitarian crisis response are mostly seeds, tools, and fertilizers. Provision of production inputs may be used to help people avoid adopting negative environmental coping mechanisms such as the sale of productive assets, over-exploitation or destruction of natural resources, or the accumulation of debt.

However, care should be taken to ensure the long-term impact of those inputs does not undermine livelihoods recovery by, for instance, introducing invasive species to the detriment of local biodiversity.

Gender, age, disability and HIV/AIDS implications

Be aware of the indirect impact of livelihoods programmes on children, such as missing school because they are required to support the household while a parent is working.

Consult with women on how to ensure they retain control over resources and assets intended for their benefit


Environmental impact categories

Air pollution
Soil pollution
Water pollution
Climate change
Loss of biodiversity and ecosystems
Natural Resource Depletion
Soil erosion
Increased drought/flood

Summary of Impacts
Summary of potential environmental impacts

Key impacts are:
· Provision of inputs creates dependency which discourages environmentally sustainable behavior
· Inputs are often designed for western agricultural methods such as ploughing fields

The frequency and intensity of some disasters such as droughts, floods, and storms are likely to increase due to climate change impacts, with an adverse impact on livelihoods. Climate-related disasters have the potential to destroy crops, critical infrastructure, and key community assets, therefore, deteriorating livelihoods and exacerbating poverty.

A large variety of cases of the residual effects of pesticides and intake by humans and animals have created health hazards.

Impact detail
Detailed potential environmental impact information

Interventions that focus on realizing short-term benefits and neglect consideration of the environment can jeopardize long-term food security and livelihood opportunities. This reduces societal resilience and undermines recovery opportunities. Provision of agricultural inputs can create dependency which can undermine people’s resilience and discourage more environmentally sustainable behavior.

The excessive use of nitrate and phosphate fertilisers and pesticides pollutes water courses, entering animal and human food chains, damaging health. Rainwater washes these fertilisers and pesticides off agricultural land into watercourses. Similarly, disposal of industrial & agricultural wastes often pollutes soil and water resources, which can lead to species loss in aquatic ecosystems and pollute human drinking water, creating growth and development issues. Also, inputs that are designed for western agricultural methods such as ploughing fields, are not appropriate in many climates and lead to soil degradation and soil loss and release vast amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Where deforestation is used as a coping strategy to survive a crisis, the ecosystems, flora, fauna, soil quality are often also harmed. This can lead to some biodiversity extinction.

Lack of access to services, social safety nets, and livelihood opportunities may force people to migrate. This can exacerbate environmental stresses, including greenhouse gas emissions; poor control of waste en-route; and increased journeys.

A high dependency on the local environment can lead to competition for resources. This often results in uncooperative and environmentally detrimental behavior. The heavy demand on the environment can lead to environmental degradation, undermining livelihoods and opportunities for recovery. As natural resources are depleted, and people continue to require relief assistance, there may be weakened social cohesion due to social conflict, perceived inequalities, and frustration or desperation.

The frequency and intensity of some disasters such as droughts, floods, and storms are likely to increase due to climate change impacts, with an adverse impact on livelihoods. Climate-related disasters have the potential to destroy crops, critical infrastructure, and key community assets, therefore, deteriorating livelihoods and exacerbating poverty.


Summary of environmental activities

Consider cash/voucher-based assistance where markets can supply adequate nutritious food and agricultural inputs. Accompany this with training and post-harvest management to support livelihoods recovery.

Give farmers access to a variety of climate/flood/drought/disease resilient crops and varieties in any seed-related intervention. Review traditional indigenous crops and also review alternative crops such as root vegetables to determine if they are more resilient.

Promote diverse livelihood activities and sustainable farming techniques within a local area while supporting communities in behavior change to reduce overuse of natural resources, and source alternatives.

Strengthening seed systems

Strengthen value chains/market access/establishing cooperatives so farmers can join together to hire crop transport, set their own agreed prices, reduce crop spoilage.

Raise awareness/provide training in climate change impacts and more sustainable adaptive farming methods.

Detailed guidance for implementing suggested environmental activities

In the face of climate change it is more effective to facilitate farmer learning on sustainable agricultural methods that require fewer inputs and lead to less soil degradation e.g. reverting to native species; working in smaller fields with native hedging; stopping harmful practices such as slash and burn; moving to non-soil plough methods such as conservation agriculture sourcing organic inputs (compost), mulching, switching to drought/flood-tolerant crops. Facilitating farmer field schools, whilst time-consuming to establish, encourage local ownership, innovation, and farmers solving their own problems, reducing dependency and increasing resilience.

Farmers and local agricultural experts should approve specific seed varieties. Seeds should suit the local climate, water resources, agro-ecology, and farmers’ own management conditions. They should also be disease-resistant and able to withstand potentially harsh weather conditions due to climate change. Test the quality of the seeds originating from outside the region and check that they are appropriate for local conditions. Access to a wide range of crops and varieties allows farmers to work out what is best for their particular farming system.

Environmental damage not only increases the risk of a crisis but contributes to tensions between communities. Livelihood interventions should promote adaptation to climate change where possible, such as selecting adapted seed varieties.

Be careful with the introduction of new species and fertilizers as both can harm surrounding ecosystems.

Seed systems are the various channels through which farmers access the seed they need to carry out production activities. The resilience of seed systems to shocks can be increased by securing farmers’ access to high-quality seed varieties and to crops that are more resistant to shocks such as floods or droughts. This requires strengthening the capacities of research for plant breeding and the introduction of new varieties and building the capacities of extension services to facilitate the transfer of new varieties to farmers. These transfers are accomplished through field-based learning methodologies and strengthening informal and formal seed multiplication systems.

Governments often sign agreements with multinational food companies which can force farmers to use terminator-type crops. Mitigation activities could be introduced supporting farmers in identifying and accessing traditional crops. Additional activities could include advocacy to the government on how to deal with these companies.

Lessons Learnt
Lessons from past experiences

Foundations for Farming, Zimbabwe, have demonstrated that conservation agriculture methods reduce the requirement for external inputs.

This includes not ploughing the soil, planting seeds individually or in small clusters, appropriately spaced, mulching, planting indigenous protective hedgerows; planting mutually beneficial plants adjacent to each other to improve soil quality, and using locally produced compost instead of chemical-based fertilisers, and natural pest control methods. All of these have improved soil quality and increased crop yields, supporting food security and livelihoods.

Activity Measurement
Environmental indicators/monitoring examples

Provision of production inputs is limited to immediate emergency

Dependency on production inputs is reduced and measurable resilience strategies identified

Provision of inputs is adapted to projected climate change impacts (e.g. drought/flood/pest resilient seeds).

Activity Status
Main Focus
Focus of suggested activities

Prevention of environmental damage

Mitigation of environmental damage

Resource implications (physical assets, time, effort)

Costs may vary. Time is required to conduct a comprehensive assessment to identify all potential hidden impacts on environment.

Next guidance:

Provision of water
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