English (en) | Change Language

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.

14 Issues in this Publication (Showing 1 - 10)


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 SanitationSolid WasteRural Roads, and Construction.

USAID SEG 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.

USAID SEG 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.

USAID SEG Forestry

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.


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).

USAID SEG Ecotourism

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.

USAID SEG - 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.

USAID SEG 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.

USAID SEG Construction

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.

USAID SEG Community-based natural resources management (CBNRM)

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.