Purpose. The Sector Environmental Guidelines present information on common USAID development actions regarding:

  • the typical, potential adverse impacts of activities in these sectors; 
  • how to prevent or otherwise mitigate these impacts, both in the form of general activity design guidance and specific design, construction and operating measures;
  • how to minimize vulnerability of activities to climate change; and
  • more detailed resources for further exploration of these issues.

Environmental Compliance Applications.


The Sector Environmental Guidelines series directly support environmental compliance by providing: information essential to assessing the potential impacts of activities, and to the identification and detailed design of appropriate mitigation and monitoring measures.

However, the Sector Environmental Guidelines are not specific to USAID’s environmental procedures. They are generally written and are intended to support the general environmentally and socially sustainable approaches to common sectors, regardless of the specific environmental requirements, regulations, or processes that apply, if any. Site specific context must be considered when using these guidelines and additional or modified impacts and mitigation measures may be required.

Sector Environmental Guidelines


Factsheets and Additional Resources

Updated: 2009


Community-based natural resources management (CBNRM) attempts to address the problems of poverty and natural resource degradation simultaneously, even though their solutions are often seen as being in direct conflict. CBNRM is premised on the idea that communities will sustainably manage local resources if they:

  • are assured of their ownership of the natural resource;
  • are allowed to use the resources themselves and/or benefit directly from others’ use of them; and
  • are given a reasonable amount of control over management of the resources.


The CBNRM chapter of the EGSSAA describe promising approaches to mitigating or preventing environmental damage to commonly managed or owned resources. Under CBNRM, local communities benefit from the sustainable use of natural resources. Although core principles and elements of CBNRM have been identified, they are still new and evolving. There are many adaptations, depending on variations in locations and legal, social, political and economic contexts. USAID, along with many other international NGOs, has sponsored, facilitated, and catalyzed many current CBNRM projects.

NOTE: this document is part of the older Environmental Guidelines for Small Scale Activities in Africa (EGSSAA) series, one of the predecessors to the Sector Environmental Guidelines (SEGs). It is provided as no Natural Resource Management SEG is currently available.

Download PDF: English 744 kb
Updated: 2017


Virtually all small-scale development activities—including aspects of housing, sanitation, water supply, roads, schools, community centers, storage silos healthcare, energy—involve construction. USAID’s global construction and rehabilitation portfolio includes small projects (e.g., individual water wells, clinics, latrines);large projects (e.g., roads, hospitals); projects in which construction is the primary activity (e.g., buildings, water infrastructure, transportation, energy, solid waste management, communication, recreation); and projects in which construction is a minor component in support of other project components (e.g., rehabilitation in health and education).

Construction projects may generate many types of environmental and social impacts. Considering environmental and social issues across the life cycle is essential, including during planning, engineering design, the use or operational phase, and the decommissioning phase. Addressing these phases during engineering design and in the environmental impact assessment is the most effective approach to managing potential impacts.

The construction SEG aims provide guidance on impact assessment and mitigation for the design, siting, building, maintenance, occupation, and use of infrastructure developed as part of USAID’s global construction portfolio. This guidance provides an equal emphasis on the management of environmental and social aspects for a successful and sustainable project.

Download PDF: English 2 MB
Other Languages: Español (2017) 2 MB

Crop Production

USAID seeks to facilitate inclusive and sustainable agricultural productivity growth to lift people out of extreme poverty and hunger, giving them the ability to move beyond subsistence and engage in their local, national, and/or global economies.

Best achieving these critical development objectives requires that the potential adverse environmental and social impacts of crop production and activities across the agricultural value chain be anticipated and mitigated in program design and implementation. Such potential impacts include but are not limited to land and water degradation to occupational health and safety, child labor, and social displacement.

This Crop Production Sector Environmental Guideline supports identification and mitigation of these impacts.

Download PDF: English 1 MB
Other Languages: Español (2019) 3.5 MB
Updated: 2014

Dryland Agriculture

The world’s drylands include hyperarid, arid, semi-arid and dry subhumid areas where rainfall is highly variable, droughts are common and water is the principal limiting factor for agriculture. Dryland soils, which are characterized by low levels of moisture, organic matter, and biological activity, often display poor fertility. When inappropriately utilized for agriculture, dryland soils are susceptible to rapid fertility loss, erosion, desertification, and salinization.

Sustainable land management (SLM) practices aim to prevent and mitigate the impacts associated with inappropriate agriculture in drylands by managing agro-ecosystems for sustained productivity, increased profits, and improved food security whilst reversing and preventing water stress, soil erosion and desertification.

This guideline details how conservation agriculture, rain water harvesting, agroforestry (especially with indigenous trees), the use of cross-slope barriers, integrated soil fertility management, integrated crop and livestock management, sustainable forest management, and improved irrigation design can all be employed. When these strategies are effectively implemented, in combination or alone, they can help conserve water, enhance soil fertility, improve crop water-use efficiency, and boost rangeland health, while preventing the unintended negative consequences associated with dryland farming.

Download PDF: English 3 MB
Updated: 2009


Ecotourism can contribute to economic development and the conservation of protected areas by generating revenues that can be used to sustainably manage protected areas, and by providing local employment and a sense of community ownership. However, without careful planning and management that balances ecological, social, and economic objectives, ecotourism can easily cause environmental damage.

The Ecotourism chapter of the EGSSAA describes how to anticipate and mitigate adverse environmental impacts so that ecotourism projects:

  • increase socioeconomic benefits to communities and landowners;
  • sustainably manage the environment;
  • raise awareness of and support for conservation, and
  • increase a community’s capacity to conserve and manage natural resources outside protected areas.


NOTE: this document is part of the older Environmental Guidelines for Small Scale Activities in Africa (EGSSAA) series, one of the predecessors to the Sector Environmental Guidelines (SEGs). It is provided as no Tourism SEG is currently available.

Download PDF: English 345 kb
Other Languages: Español (2017) 2 MB
Updated: 2018


Renewable energy can have numerous benefits, such as increased energy access in developing countries, public health improvements, climate change mitigation, etc. However, for those benefits to be realized, several sustainability considerations must be addressed in the design. This guideline is intended to inform developers and implementers of small-scale energy projects about environmentally sound design (ESD).

Download PDF: English 5 MB
Other Languages: Español (2014) 2 MB | François (2014) 2 MB
Updated: 2015


Forestry is the science and practice of managing trees and forests to provide a diverse range of ecosystem goods and services. The Forestry Sector Environmental Guideline provides information on environmental and social impacts, mitigation measures, and environmentally sound design and management (ESDM) best practice for the types of forestry projects typically funded by USAID.

This document was prepared to help Missions comply with Section 117 of the Foreign Assistance Act (FAA) and Title 22 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Section 216 (22 CFR 216), which require that environmental impact assessments be conducted, and mitigations implemented, for all USAID projects. It seeks to ensure awareness of Section 118 of FAA and other relevant legislation that pertains to tropical forests.

The guideline is also intended to help USAID partners and staff design forestry activities that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and minimize the vulnerability of people, ecosystems and the project itself to climate change, all of which are important aspects of 22 CFR 216.

Download PDF: English 1 MB
Other Languages: Español 2 MB | François 1 MB
Updated: 2015

Small Healthcare Facilities

Small-scale healthcare facilities play a vital role in public health and are a key part of integrated community development. The staff at rural health posts (including immunization and reproductive health posts), mobile and emergency healthcare programs, urban clinics and small hospitals are not only tasked with treating the sick. They are also responsible for disease prevention, and health communication and education and serve as the front line of defense against epidemics such as AIDS, malaria, and cholera. Health service professionals at these facilities provide family planning, nurture child and adult health, prevent disease, cure debilitating illnesses, and alleviate the suffering of the dying.

However, environmentally poor design and management of these facilities can adversely affect patient and community health countering the very benefits they are intended to deliver. This Small Healthcare Facilities Sector Environmental Guideline describe the mechanisms by which environmental and health risks arise and recommends mitigation and monitoring measures to reduce them and otherwise strengthen project outcomes. It also includes a number of checklists for environmentally sound design and management (ESDM) of small health facilities.

Download PDF: English 922 kb
Updated: 2019

Healthcare Waste

Small-scale healthcare activities, such as rural health posts, immunization posts, reproductive health posts, mobile and emergency healthcare programs, and urban clinics and small hospitals, provide important and often critical healthcare services to individuals and communities that would otherwise have little or no access to such services. The medical and health services they provide improve family planning, nurture child and adult health, prevent disease, cure debilitating illnesses, and alleviate the suffering of the dying.

Currently, little management of healthcare wastes occurs in many small-scale facilities in developing countries. Training and infrastructure are minimal. A common practice in urban areas is to dispose of healthcare waste along with the general solid waste or, in peri-urban and rural areas, to bury waste, without treatment. In some cities and towns, small hospitals may incinerate waste in dedicated on-site incinerators, but often fail to operate them properly. Unwanted pharmaceuticals and chemicals may be dumped into the local sanitation outlet, be it a sewage system, septic tank or latrine. These practices present often significant risks to health. This Healthcare Waste Sector Environmental Guideline provides information on how to mitigate these and other environmental hazards related to healthcare waste management activities.

Download PDF: English 649 kb
Other Languages: Español 2 MB
Updated: 2015


Shelter is a basic human need. Thus, providing adequate housing is a fundamental development objective but it is also highly complex. Successful housing activities can rarely be isolated from the development of associated infrastructure—e.g., water, sanitation, transport—and social services.

The Housing Sector Environmental Guideline focus on housing reconstruction after natural disasters that must be carried out in highly difficult circumstances and there are expectations to be operational very quickly. The Guideline does not address technical standards for construction of housing units, water supply and treatment, etc. Instead, its purpose is (1) to convey the full range of environmental and environmental health issues associated with housing construction, and (2) to provide a guided framework for considering these issues in the siting, design and implementation of housing projects, particularly in post-disaster reconstruction and in risk-prone areas.

Note: It is highly recommended that readers review additional Sector Environmental Guidelines in this series as much of their content has implications for housing activities: Water and Sanitation, Solid Waste, Roads, and Construction.

Download PDF: English 1 MB
Updated: 2009

Integrated Pest Management

Integrated pest management (IPM) is defined as a farmer-based and knowledge-intensive management approach that encourages natural and cultural control of pest populations by anticipating pest problems and managing their numbers to reduce losses, while permitting safer pesticide uses where justified and permitted. Many indigenous, as well as newly-developed, non-chemical techniques are available for use. These include combinations of biological control, habitat manipulation, soil health management, use of resistant varieties, and modification of cultural practices (expanded upon below). IPM focuses on long-term prevention of pests and their damage and is USAID policy. Pesticides are considered curative, and generally should be used as a last resort.

USAID’s IPM Sector Environmental Guidelines are designed to encourage the use of natural and cultural pest management tactics to the extent possible while permitting the safe integration of pesticides, as needed, with farmers’ traditional cropping and pest management systems.

NOTE: this document is part of the older Environmental Guidelines for Small Scale Activities in Africa (EGSSAA) series, one of the predecessors to the Sector Environmental Guidelines (SEGs). It is provided as no IPM SEG is currently available.

Download PDF: English 333 kb
Updated: 2023


Livestock production is an essential livelihood strategy for many people globally, especially in developing countries, providing food, materials, income, wealth, transportation, and mechanical power for pulling carts to local populations. Properly managed livestock production can enhance land and water quality, economic stability, and biodiversity. However, livestock production has the potential to increase environmental harm as well as economic and social harm when improperly managed.

The goal of the Livestock Sector Environmental Guideline (SEG) is to provide information essential to assessing the potential environmental, climate change, health and safety for workers and the general population, as well as social impacts and vulnerabilities of livestock activities and to identify corresponding mitigation and monitoring measures. The SEG discusses impacts and mitigation measures associated with rangeland and extensive grassland, mixed crop-livestock, intensive, and urban/peri-
urban livestock production systems. Also included are considerations for several types of livestock, including cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, poultry, and camelids. Regional perspectives are provided throughout the document, characterizing global variances in livestock production and its impacts.

While this document is primarily intended for USAID audiences, it is not specific to USAID’s environmental procedures. It is also written to be a general resource for environmentally sound design and management (ESDM) of livestock production by all actors.

Download PDF: English 756 kb
Updated: 2017

Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining

USAID’s Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining Sector Environmental Guideline (SEG) are designed for project managers, project implementers, practitioners, or others working on artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) issues and in ASM communities.

This SEG for ASM introduces the range of possible impacts, particularly environmental, health, and socio-political, and explains how project managers and others can support prevention and/or mitigation through project design, environmental review, and during the development of site-specific Environmental Mitigation and Monitoring Plans (EMMPs). This guideline is also intended to help USAID partners, staff, and other practitioners understand climate change impacts to and from ASM activities. Finally, the references section of the document lists cited documents as well as additional resources and references on this topic.

Download PDF: English 2 MB
Other Languages: Español (2017) 1MB | François (2017) 1 MB
Updated: 2023


USAID may support a variety of project types in the road sector, from the rehabilitation or maintenance of existing roads to the construction of completely new roads. These roads may be designed to provide farmers access to markets; connect communities; provide access to economic opportunities or crucial social services, such as health care or schools; or, in some cases, improve access to or into protected areas to encourage tourism.

Many of the roads funded by USAID are low-volume, unpaved, rural roads; however, they also may be higher volume, multi-lane roads with durable pavement. The scope of the Roads SEG is intended to cover typical potential environmental impacts and mitigation measures for roads up to four-lane trunk roads and excluding limited-access highways and toll roads.

USAID’s environmental procedures are designed to consider the potential adverse impacts from roads, to foster the use of best design practices to minimize adverse impacts, and to mitigate unavoidable impacts to minimize negative effects.

The Roads SEG discusses each of these steps and presents details on typical road construction projects, common environmental impacts, and best management practices for mitigating the potential impacts during project design and implementation.


Download PDF: English 4.8 MB
Updated: 2003

Safer Use Pesticides

This Safer Pesticide Use Sector Environmental Guideline provides guidance on maximizing the safety of pesticide use when such use is unavoidable.

NOTE: this document is part of the older Environmental Guidelines for Small Scale Activities in Africa (EGSSAA) series, one of the predecessors to the Sector Environmental Guidelines (SEGs). It is provided as no Pesticide Safer User SEG is currently available.

Download PDF: English 1 MB
Updated: 2015

Primary and Secondary Day Schools

Formal education is essential to social and economic development, and school facilities are essential to formal education. USAID’s support to the education sector often includes funding for the construction, expansion and/or rehabilitation of schools.

Environmentally sound design and management (ESDM) of schools is essential to creating a school environment that facilitates learning, safeguards the health and safety of students, reinforces the basic hygiene behaviors that are important to public health; and to assuring that school facilities will be durable, returning social benefits over many years on the substantial investment they represent.

Gaps in design and management can result in environmental and health risks that may diminish or negate many of the benefits schools are intended to deliver: This School Sector Environmental Guideline describes how these potential effects and outcomes arise and recommends mitigation and monitoring measures to prevent or reduce them, both in design and operation. As in other sectors, effective mitigation is much easier when potential adverse outcomes are identified and addressed early in the design and construction process.

Download PDF: English 1 MB
Updated: 2018

Solid Waste

Rapid growth in global population, urbanization, economic growth and a burgeoning middle class, are expected to lead to a correlative increase in waste generation focused in urban areas of the developing world. At the same time, shifting patterns of production and consumption are leading to greater complexity in managing waste. Faced with such trends, and lack of funding and capacity, many solid waste management authorities in such areas will find it increasingly challenging to provide necessary services, infrastructure and facilities, while addressing the associated threats to public health, society and the environment. In this context, USAID’s role in supporting the development of sustainable waste management projects, programs and activities offers significant potential for achieving a wide range of benefits, including minimizing public health risks and environmental impacts and enhancing sustainability.

These Sector Environmental Guidelines provides an overview of the solid waste management sector, types of waste, systems for reducing, collecting, treating and disposing wastes, and the planning and implementing of such systems. Additionally, these Guidelines introduce and outline potential environmental and social impacts, and climate change risks, associated with the solid waste management sector and discusses potential mitigation and management measures to address these impacts and risks.

Download PDF: English 5 MB
Other Languages: Español (2003) 0.0 kb
Updated: 2017

Water Supply and Sanitation

To remain healthy, human beings need an adequate, year-round supply of good quality water. Many debilitating or even fatal illnesses are spread by contamination of the water supply by human fecal matter containing disease-causing viruses, bacteria, and parasites. Unfortunately, nearly 2.5 billion people, over one-third of the world’s population, have inadequate access to sanitation and approximately 800 million people do not have access to enough drinking water. These conditions, combined with poor hygiene, are largely responsible for the fact that 50 percent of the world’s population suffers from debilitating diarrheal diseases (e.g., typhoid, cholera, dysentery) at any given time. Of those affected, over 2 million die each year. While water and sanitation projects are intended to improve environmental and public health (and provide numerous other benefits), when designed or managed ineffectively they may cause adverse impacts that can offset or eliminate the intended benefits. This Water Supply and Sanitation Sector Environmental Guideline identifies potential adverse impacts of water and sanitation activities, and provide guidance regarding design and other mitigation measures to best achieve environmentally sound design and management of water and sanitation activities. It draws on lessons learned in the field over more than 30 years with both participatory approaches and technical design.
Download PDF: English 2.3 MB
Updated: 2018

Wild Caught Fisheries and Aquaculture

The global fish production has grown steadily for decades to a total of 167 million metric tons (MT) in 2014, with fisheries accounting for 93.4 million MT and aquaculture contributing 73.8 million MT. Increasing demand for seafood from developing countries has increased pressure on the sustainability and resilience of both fisheries and aquaculture systems.

USAID investments in wild-caught fisheries and aquaculture (or “farmed” fish) are made in the context of international, national, and agency guidelines, agreements, and policies. These policies represent the governance framework within which USAID projects in the fisheries and aquaculture sector are designed, implemented, and evaluated for responsible environmental stewardship. USAID’s Wildcaught Fisheries and Aquaculture Sector Environmental Guideline describes these policies and identifies potential environmental impacts in this sector, and potential design and mitigation measures to address them.

Download PDF: English 2 MB
Updated: December 2022

Fertilizer and Soil Fertility Factsheet

Fertilizer is an important part of modern agriculture, but we also must understand the risks and challenges of using this input. This factsheet provides partners with factors to be considered when selecting and using fertilizers as well as means of mitigating negative impacts of fertilizer use.

Download Long Version PDF: English 21 MB
Download Short Version PDF: English 5 MB
Updated: September 2021

Neem Factsheet

The neem tree has long been used as a source of natural pesticides by farmers. It is frequently made artisanally as it is readily-available and a cheap pest control method. This factsheet provides information on effectively and safely making and using artisanally produced neem.

Download Long Version PDF: English 2 MB
Download Short Version PDF: English 277 KB
Updated: March 2021

EMMP Factsheet

Environmental Mitigation and Monitoring Plans (EMMPs) are a direct communication between partners and USAID on the agreed upon mitigation and monitoring needs for activities. This factsheet will help partners draft effective EMMPs, and it serves as a resource for A/CORs who must review and approve them.

Download PDF: English 897 KB
Updated: 2023

Ammonium Nitrate Fertilizer

USAID has special requirements for approving the purchase of ammonium fertilizers as a restricted commodity. This addendum instructs A/CORs how to request ammonium fertilizer purchases on behalf of their partners.

Download PDF: English 335 KB
Updated: 2023

Guide to Encountering and Working with Cultural Heritage

The purpose of this Guide to Encountering and Working with Cultural Heritage is twofold: 1) to raise awareness, and 2) to serve as a useful resource. The aim of the Guide is to foster increased consideration within USAID, of the potential for negative and positive impacts for cultural heritage resources, such as historic sites and culturally significant sites and practices, as the result of USAID programming. The Guide discusses how to consider these impacts during the USAID environmental safeguarding procedures, particularly through stakeholder engagement and consultation, in order to minimize negative impacts and support cultural heritage preservation when possible. The intent is for USAID missions, bureaus, and office staff involved in program design and management to be the primary consumers and users of the Guide. In addition, implementing partners, country government counterparts, and other stakeholder counterparts will likely have access to the Guide.

Download PDF: English 911 KB

Advisory. The Guidelines are advisory only. They are not official USAID regulatory guidance or policy. Following the practices and approaches outlined in the Guidelines does not necessarily assure compliance with USAID environmental procedures or host country environmental requirements. Further, The Guidelines are not a substitute for detailed sources of technical information or design manuals. As needed, users are expected to refer to the included references for additional information.

Comments and corrections. Each sector of these guidelines is a work in progress. Comments, corrections, and suggested additions are welcome. Email: environmentalcompliancesupport@usaid.gov.