Why is it important?
One of the vulnerabilities of populations affected by crises is the loss of livelihoods and loss of reliable income (monetary or in-kind). This is disruptive and deprives families of much needed flexibility to adapt to the impacts of the crisis. Enabling income-generating activities to resume is crucial in helping a population recover economically and psychologically from a disaster. It cultivates the creation of social relationships and cohesion and restores dignity. Settlement and shelter management is a complex affair and there are opportunities during construction and operation to offer income or necessary goods in return for labour, offering the additional benefit of enriching local skills.
International development experience warns of the ineffectiveness of disseminating equipment and goods for free to impoverished households, due to lack of sense of ownership or need, or incentive for equipment maintenance. While in a humanitarian relief scenario there is an understandable need for handing out necessary goods for free (e.g. food, solar lanterns, improved cookstoves), during the transition and recovery stages, offering such equipment in return for labour, can instil a greater sense of value and ownership in the goods being offered.
- Do you understand the environmental issues (have you carried out a rapid environmental assessment)?
- Have you researched the practicality of using alternatives for those activities that may impact on the environment e.g. agroforestry in replace of mono-culture?
- Can you monitor and respond to the results?
- Can you make a good case study from the work you have done?
Why Is Energy Important?
Resource depletion, Environmental degradation & Greenhouse gase emissions
Threat to the environment is posed both by existing income-generating activities that are resumed, and new ones adopted as families begin to rebuild their lives. Activities of fuelwood harvesting and charcoal have the impact of deforestation in the absence of forest management and energy efficiency management. Charcoal making also contributes to green-house gas emissions.
In addition, any income generating activity which requires heat, such as food selling or clothes washing services, is more likely to consume firewood.
In the absence of sound solid waste management, waste from businesses such as organics, inorganics and even toxic waste (such as batteries) can increase pollution and pose a threat to human health.
Agricultural livelihoods may require the clearing of trees and bushes, causing deforestation, removal of carbon sinks and further carbon release from the soil. They also reduce shade cover and prevention of soil erosion or landslides.
Displaced populations bringing livestock with them can increase pressure on the local environment as animals are fed, watered and produce waste which can pollute watercourses.
More Resource Depletion
Energy efficiency is the goal of minimising the amount of energy needed to to do a specific task. If using a fossil fuel derived fuel source this directly reduces the amount of greenhouse gases released to the atmosphere. Whereas if using energy derived from renewable sources this reduces the load on the energy producing system. A classic example is that of using insulation to reduce the amount of energy needed to heat a building.
Increasing energy efficiency reduces demands on local energy supplies such as forestry (mitigating deforestation) or imported fuel sources. Energy is often derived from fossil fuels, using large amounts of energy increases greenhouse gase emissions.
More Greenhouse info
Greenhouse Gas Emissions
A greenhouse gas is a gas in an atmosphere that absorbs and emits radiation within the thermal infrared range. This process is the fundamental cause of the greenhouse effect which maintains the stable temperature of the Earth.
Since the Industrial Revolution there has been a 40% increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere which is believed to be contributing to a change in the Earth’s climatic systems. Changes in this system is increasing the vulnerability of many populations.
Help people transition away from environmentally harmful livelihoods, and offer sustainable alternatives. Also offer employment opportunities within the settlement and within activities around the settlement for improving environmental conditions (such as tree planting).
Understand existing resources and local businesses
Conduct Rapid Environmental Assessments (REAs) to identify scarce and vital resources. Include an estimate of the energy needs and waste outputs of businesses.
General income generating activities
Consider distribution or introduction of alternative resources to businesses such as alternative fuels (e.g. briquettes, biogas, bioethanol, LPG) or devices (such as fuel efficient stoves), to protect local natural resources (See Energy).
Provide structures and procedures for ensuring the separation, recycling or safe disposal of waste; particularly toxic waste. Provide training for businesses and awareness-raising in schools to ensure that people are sensitized to environmental impact, and that they are aware of waste treatment procedures.
Introduction of agroforestry methods (combination of growing trees with shrubs, crops and/ or livestock) can enable the continuation of agricultural practices and animal rearing without deforestation.
Livestock activity management
Assess availability of pasture land and carrying capacity compared to estimates of increased livestock density. Destocking for compensation may be considered if carrying capacity is exceeded.
Environmental impact mitigation strategies include:
- grazing and herding contracts;
- use of local knowledge and grazing patterns;
- limitation of herd/flock size;
- sale of animals; and
- designation of grazing areas.
UNHCR have produced the following resources:
- Cooking Options in Refugee Situations;
- Building Livelihoods;
- Forest Management in Refugee and Returnee Situations;
- Household energy in refugee and IDP camps: challenges and solutions for UNHCR;
- Livestock-Keeping and Animal Husbandry in Refugee and Returnee Situations; and
- FRAME Toolkit: Framework for Assessing, Monitoring and Evaluating the environment in refugee-related operations.