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

Procurement (Mobilisation)
Timely delivery of goods and services
Sourcing - Cash and Voucher Assistance

Sourcing – Cash and Voucher Assistance


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

There is increasing evidence that environmental stresses including conflict over depleting natural resources and climate change impacts are increasingly significant drivers of migration to support livelihoods. There is also evidence that migration creates its own additional environmental impacts, from travel emissions to production of poorly managed waste and consumption increase from remittances sent by family working overseas, which can often be used to fund unsustainably resourced local building projects.

Well-designed CVA interventions can help people to remain and develop sustainable local livelihoods.

Where market and livelihoods are not functioning due to disaster impact, communities might enter into environmentally harmful strategies such as overconsumption of natural sensitive resources. An example includes wildlife being unsustainably consumed, sometimes as a result of unregulated trade and illegal consumption. More people are expected to be driven to engage in dangerous occupations, such as gold panning and informal mining, to try to make money.

Another example is community firewood collection for charcoal production, cooking food, and generating income when their normal livelihood is failing. It can 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 food security. CVA can reduce these impacts.

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 intensive agricultural methods such as plowing large 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 residual effects of pesticides and intake by humans and animals have created health hazards.

Impact detail
Detailed potential environmental impact information

Unconditional, unrestricted, or multipurpose cash grants can be used to strengthen or to, usually unintentionally, increase environmental impacts and environmental risk, in the same way, that all forms of assistance can be used well or not. Livelihoods related buildings or infrastructure may be constructed regardless of environmental conditions, and in a manner that increases vulnerability to disasters such as storms and floods.

Sourcing local materials may compromise fragile environmental conditions (for example by overusing wood, water, or sand), and potentially cause irreversible damage to ecosystems. If the amount of cash transferred is insufficient, beneficiaries may choose materials that are less environmentally sustainable, unhealthy, and/or of lower quality. The provision of sustainable alternatives, accompanied by training and awareness-raising of environmental impacts is necessary, accompanied by clearly enforced regulatory policies to ensure that the materials sourced are sustainable and of high quality.

The distance or time commodities required for transport may directly affect the type, quantity, and specifications of packaging required. The longer a commodity has to travel the more emissions it will encompass. Distance is also related to the type and amount of packaging needed. Therefore, international commodities assistance increases emissions and packaging.

There is much evidence that Cash for work programmes can be very environmentally damaging and they can also stop people from having time to rebuild their existing or develop alternative sustainable LHs.

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 watercourses, 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 plowing 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

To reduce air pollution and reinforce the local economy, actors can prioritise cash over in-kind wherever available in local markets, as long as local markets can be supported to provide good quality sustainably sourced, re-usable items.

Near sourcing: Reassessing sourcing both at the global and domestic levels. This is best done if a comprehensive array of logistics costs is considered, particularly in light of energy and environmental constraints.

While a supplier may appear to offer the lowest cost, if factors such as higher transport costs, more inventory in transit, longer response times, and a higher level of unreliability are considered, alternative, but closer, suppliers could be more advantageous.

The distance or time commodities required for transport may directly affect the type, quantity, and specifications of packaging required. Engaging local stakeholders, through either direct or cash-based assistance, support local markets and businesses, which can be an important source of economic recovery or growth following the destabilizing or destructive events that are the immediate cause for humanitarian assistance.

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 plow 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

Cash assistance brings both opportunities and new complexities in the interaction between humanitarian relief and environmental impacts.

Negative impacts may emerge when markets and local supply chains are unregulated and unsustainable or when the type of goods and services procured inadvertently increase risk. It may be necessary to put conditionalities or restrictions on CVA if negative environmental impacts are observed. These could include people using the cash to buy equipment or transport to unsustainably deplete natural resources for income.

Unrestricted cash and cash from re-selling distributed food or food purchased with vouchers may be used to fund unsustainable or illicit environmentally damaging coping mechanisms.

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 the environment.

Next guidance:

Sourcing – In-kind
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