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.
Environmental hazards can lead to animal sickness, requiring veterinary support.
Over intensive livestock management practices can cause animal disease and environmental degradation – including polluting water, degrading soil, vegetation loss, harm to ecosystems.
With cattle there are equity and gender issues, as vulnerable groups, including women, may be excluded from decision making.
The inclusion of sheep and goats will allow more vulnerable groups to benefit and environmental impacts might be reduced.
Loss of biodiversity and ecosystems
Natural Resource Depletion
The provision of veterinary support can benefit or add to existing harm to the environment.
The main cause of negative environmental impacts however is overstocking of livestock and therefore over intensive grazing, stripping vegetation, harming ecosystems, polluting soil and water, damaging forests, degrading soil, and potentially leading to eventual local desertification of soil and eutrophication of aquatic systems.
The provision of veterinary support can benefit the environment by helping keep animals healthy or add to existing harm to the environment.
Harm may be caused through the overuse of antibiotics which spread to the environment, creating bacterial immunity and leading ultimately to antibiotic resistance and uncurable disease. However, the main cause of negative environmental impacts is overstocking of livestock. Overstocking leads to intensive grazing which strips vegetation beyond its capacity to recover, harming ecosystems, leading to the loss of local flora and fauna, which ultimately affects human health.
Over-intensive livestock farming also leads to manure pollution of soil and water which can cause eutrophication of aquatic systems and the loss of many aquatic species.
Intensive livestock management can damage forests, degrade soil, and potentially leading to eventual local soil loss and desertification.
Environmental impacts can be reduced through support farmers to reduce over intensive livestock practices:
· Assess and work with farmers to understand and reduce the impacts of overgrazing and grassland degradation
· Assess and work to reduce excessive application of manure from livestock production leading to nutrient overloading of cropland or watercourses
· Support effective manure and effluent management or treatment
· Provide sustainable water capture and storage to prevent over-abstraction and keep animals healthy
· Assess and reduce airborne contaminants including gases, odor, dust, and microorganisms impairing air quality
· Assess and reduce land-use change and protect biodiversity loss or reduced eco-system services
· Carefully assess and understand any local conflict and avoid livestock distribution if this is likely to exacerbate tensions
· Provide support in diagnosing and treating animal diseases
· Raise awareness of the harms of over-reliance on antibiotics and also of leaving the disease untreated
· Knowledge of the local population and traditional practices are often relevant for taking care of livestock health.
The negative environmental impacts associated with veterinary practices and the environment are largely related to over-intensive livestock practices. Activities should be focused on supporting farmers to reduce their intensive activities and to strengthen the local environment.
Support farmers in maintaining healthy animals. This includes assessing and working with farmers to prevent overstocking and reduce overgrazing and grassland degradation. This may require supporting them in developing alternative non-agrigultural forms of income. Reducing the negative impacts of livestock should include reducing excessive application of manure which leads to nutrient overloading of cropland and adjacent watercourses. Similarly, support should be provided to ensure effective manure and effluent management or treatment.
Farmers can be supported in developing sustainable water capture and storage to prevent over-abstraction and in assessing and reducing land-use change to protect biodiversity loss or reduced ecosystem services. Support should also be provided in diagnosing and treating animal diseases.
Conflict over natural resources should be assessed and livestock distribution avoided if this is likely to exacerbate tensions.
Effective organic waste and wastewater management is critical in animal slaughter to avoid reducing the likelihood of disease transmission and surface water contamination. This could be combined with the reduction in water consumption. A reduction of water consumption without decreasing hygiene standards is often possible.
This reduction may be reached by good-house keeping practices, but also by the introduction of new techniques such as dry cleaning prior to washing and converting as much waste as possible into a solid product instead of washing the waste away as wastewater. In general solid waste is fairly easy to control, requires less energy, and is cheaper than wastewater treatment. Plan for the provision of a wastewater treatment system.
Avoid pollution of water by Tanning practices – encourage adoption of traditional vegetable tanning, use of barks and nuts instead of the use of the polluting heavy metal chromium. For tanneries, it is of prime importance to prevent chromium from polluting wastewater. Precipitation of chromium is an easy process. Solid waste containing chromium should be dumped in special dumping grounds where facilities should be available to minimize the amount of percolation.
Experiences of local NGOs supporting vets in Nepal have demonstrated that capacity building can ensure timely support to livestock that can reduce disease spread and environmental damage.
Number of farmers supported to reduce intensive farming
Number of farmers supported in developing alternative livelihoods
Reduction in antibiotic use together with a reduction in animal disease
Prevention of environmental damage
Mitigation of environmental damage
Time and expertise to assess the environmental impacts of over-intensive livestock farming and take appropriate actions to reduce and mitigate them.