LEGS is an independent initiative that aims to improve the quality and livelihoods impact of livestock-related projects in humanitarian situations.


What is the LEGS Project?

The LEGS Project is an independent initiative that aims to improve the quality and livelihoods impact of livestock-related projects in humanitarian situations.

The key activity of the LEGS Project is the production and dissemination of the LEGS Handbook, supported by a global training programme and other awareness raising activities.

More information

How did the LEGS Project start?

At a Nairobi workshop in 2004, which brought together humanitarian agencies working on livestock   programmes in the region. Practitioners raised concerns about the quality of livestock responses in emergencies.  The livelihoods of livestock-owning communities were   often not taken into account by such interventions and in some cases livelihoods were undermined by the emergency response. Workshop participants highlighted the need for a common reference point to guide better quality programmes and Tufts University took the lead to identify funding and bring together interested parties. In 2006 the first LEGS Steering Group meeting took  place in Addis Ababa and the LEGS Project was officially launched.

What is the LEGS Project aim and strategy?

The ultimate aim of LEGS is to ‘improve the quality and livelihoods impact of livestock-related projects in humanitarian crises’, while the goal is that ‘LEGS  guidelines and support services are used globally to  ensure high standards of livestock-based emergency  response, with benefits to both people and animals’.

To work towards this goal, the LEGS Project has identified two impact areas:

  • Organizational impact: Key global organizations normalize the use of LEGS as the reference point for the design, implementation and evaluation of livestock projects in humanitarian crises
  • Livelihoods impact: Livestock emergency interventions have a positive impact on the livelihoods of livestock keepers

The LEGS Project monitors progress against the first impact area directly, while the second impact area is measured indirectly through reports and impact assessments of practitioner organisations.

The new LEGS Project Strategy for 2016-2020 is based on  four output areas:

  1. Publications and research: promoting the LEGS approach through production and translation of the LEGS Handbook and other publications on key topics
  2. Global learning programme: training and technical support throughout the world including Africa, Middle East, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean
  3. Institutionalising LEGS: embedding LEGS in key partner organisations
  4. Core functions: global coordination, management and communications

A summary of the strategy is available for download here.

What is LEGS’ relationship with Sphere?

In 2011, LEGS was accepted as a  formal companion standard to the Sphere Project’s  Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards for Humanitarian Response, and together with Sphere is part of an  informal alliance of humanitarian standards including other companion standards: the Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE) – Minimum Standards for Education: Preparedness, Response, Recovery; the Small Enterprise Education and Promotion (SEEP) Network’s Minimum Economic Recovery Standards (MERS), and the Child Protection Working Group’s Minimum Standards for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action (CPMS).

How does the LEGS Training Programme work?

The LEGS Training Programme is based on training of trainers (TOT) courses to build national and local capacity in developing regions of the world. The graduates of each TOT (‘LEGS Trainers’) are equipped with the skills, materials and methodologies to run the standard 3-day LEGS training course, which aims to bring the LEGS Handbook to life and enable practitioners to implement the LEGS approach in the field.

LEGS Trainers deliver the 3-day training course independently of the LEGS Project, in response to demand in their home countries, from within their organization, or from other interested parties. To date the LEGS Project has trained over 340 LEGS Trainers from around the world through 19 TOTs in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. Between them they have run more than 180 LEGS training courses independently of LEGS Project funding.

In addition to the TOTs, the LEGS Project carries out half-day awareness sessions for donors and decision makers. Contact the LEGS Coordinator for more details.

For more information on the LEGS Training Programme

How can I join or organise a LEGS Training?

The LEGS Project organises LEGS Training of Trainers (TOTs) but does not organise the 3-day LEGS training courses. Instead we leave interested organisations to commission LEGS Training from any of the LEGS Trainers in their country or region. Only LEGS Trainers (who have successfully completed a LEGS TOT) are authorised to deliver the 3-day LEGS Training – see the LEGS Training Policy for more details.

There are currently over 340 LEGS Trainers from 81 countries around the world and their contact details can be obtained from the LEGS Administrator. LEGS Trainers who have successfully carried out two LEGS Training Courses after graduating from a TOT become ‘accredited’ Trainers and are listed here

For more information on how to organise LEGS Training

How do I organise a LEGS TOT?

The LEGS Project organises the 6-day LEGS TOTs. If you are interested in hosting or funding a LEGS TOT in your country or region please contact the LEGS Coordinator.

Does the LEGS Project intervene in emergencies?

The LEGS Project is not operational and hence does not intervene directly in emergencies. We are able to connect interested people and agencies with LEGS Trainers in a particular country and to share information on the LEGS approach.

Does the LEGS Project provide funding?

No, the LEGS Project does not have any funds to disperse.

What does the LEGS Handbook contain?

The LEGS Handbook contains:

  • key issues relating to livestock and livelihoods in emergencies
  • guidelines and tools for initial assessment and identifying responses
  • core standards common to all livestock interventions
  • six technical chapters covering destocking, veterinary support, feed, water, livestock shelter and provision of livestock (restocking). Each technical chapter includes decision-making tools as well as minimum standards, key actions and guidance notes, supported by case studies and assessment and M and E checklists.

Is the LEGS Handbook available in other languages?

The 2nd edition of the LEGS Handbook is available in English, French, Arabic, Spanish and Mongolian. The 1st edition is also available in Thai and Vietnamese.

How can I get a copy of the LEGS Handbook?

The LEGS Handbook 2nd edition is available in hard copy in English and Spanish (forthcoming January 2016); and in pdf format for free download from the website in: English, French, Arabic and Spanish. The 1st edition is also available in Thai and Vietnamese.

The pdf versions are available here

Hard copies can be ordered direct from the publisher

What is the LEGS approach?

The LEGS approach focuses on supporting the livelihoods of livestock keepers before, during and following a crisis. It is therefore based on three objectives affecting livelihoods in crisis-affected communities:

Objective 1: to provide immediate benefits using existing livestock resources

Objective 2: to protect key livestock assets

Objective 3: to rebuild key livestock assets

LEGS guides practitioners through four key stages of response planning and implementation:

Stage 1: initial assessment

Stage 2: response identification

Stage 3: analysis of technical interventions and options

Stage 4: monitoring and evaluation

At each stage there are participatory tools to help the user to work through the stage, including the Participatory Response Identification Matrix (PRIM), which is used to facilitate discussion and planning among stakeholders including beneficiary representatives to determine the most appropriate, timely and feasible options to support livestock keepers in any particular crisis.

LEGS discusses the key issues (including cross-cutting themes such as gender and protection) for each possible technical intervention and provides a review of the advantages and disadvantages of various sub-options and a decision tree to highlight key questions that need to be addressed. These are followed by specific standards, key actions and guidance notes for each intervention and option.

What other resources does LEGS provide?

The LEGS website resources section includes some of the references from the bibliography section of the LEGS Handbook (presented according to technical intervention area), as well as a number of LEGS-specific resources including:

  • A 3 minute and a 20 minute film introducing LEGS and the LEGS approach
  • The report ‘LEGS – the first 10 years’
  • The LEGS evaluation tool
  • The LEGS flyer
  • Briefing papers on key topics including: gender, climate change, cash transfers and resilience
  • A summary of the 2015 review of the LEGS Project

Where does LEGS Project funding come from?

LEGS is funded from multiple sources as a means to increase awareness and use of LEGS. The LEGS Project has received funding and in-kind support* from the following organisations:

  • African Union*
  • Department for International Development (UK)
  • Donkey Sanctuary
  • European Union – DG Development and Cooperation – EuropeAid
  • European Union – Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO)
  • Feinstein International Center, Tufts University*
  • Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
  • Improved Global Governance for Hunger Reduction Programme
  • Humanitarian Policy Group, Overseas Development Institute*
  • International Committee of the Red Cross*
  • Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance, USAID
  • Oxfam GB
  • Trócaire
  • Vetwork UK (overall coordination)*
  • VSF-Belgium*
  • World Animal Protection (formerly WSPA)

Where is the LEGS office / where is LEGS based?

The LEGS project team is based all over the world. The LEGS Coordinator is based in the UK, the LEGS Administrator is based in Ethiopia, with other members of the team based in Switzerland, Spain, Myanmar, New Zealand, the United States and the UK. See ‘What organisation manages LEGS?’ for more information.

What organisation manages LEGS?

The LEGS Project is overseen by an international Steering Group, which provides strategic direction of the project and quality control of LEGS products and the training programme. Details of the current LEGS Steering Group members are available here

LEGS Project activities are managed on a day-to-day basis by a small team at Vetwork UK  comprising the LEGS Coordinator, Training Coordinator, support staff and consultants, with technical support from Tufts University.

What does LEGS have to say about:

  • resilience?

See the discussion paper: LEGS and Resilience: Linking Livestock, Livelihoods and Drought Management in the Horn of Africa


  • animal welfare?

LEGS is based on humanitarian principles and law, hence its starting point is the welfare of people. In contrast, the main objective of animal welfare organizations in disasters is to improve or protect animal welfare, although some of these organizations also recognize how improved animal welfare could provide economic or other benefits to people.

However, although LEGS aims to improve or protect the livelihoods of people affected by disasters, it is also recognised that many of the activities recommended by LEGS have animal welfare benefits. Therefore, each of the technical chapters of LEGS outlines how the LEGS interventions relate to animal welfare and the “five freedoms” commonly used as a framework for assessing animal welfare:

  1. freedom from hunger and thirst – by providing ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour
  2. freedom from discomfort – by providing an appropriate environment, including shelter and a comfortable resting area
  3. freedom from pain, injury, or disease – by preventing or rapidly diagnosing and treating the problem
  4. freedom to express normal behaviour – by providing sufficient space, proper facilities, and company of the animal’s own kind
  5. freedom from fear and distress – by ensuring conditions and treatment that avoid mental suffering

See also the LEGS Briefing Paper on Animal Welfare


  • cash transfers?

With the increasing use of cash transfers in humanitarian programmes, the use of cash-based responses constitutes an option for achieving the LEGS objectives. Table 3.5 in chapter 3 of the LEGS Handbook summarises the most common types of cash transfer and Table 3.6 provides examples of how they can be used. Further information is given in each technical chapter.  Detailed guides on market assessment and cash response mechanisms are listed in the References section of Chapter 3.

A paper on livestock responses and cash transfers is also available in the resources section of the LEGS website


  • gender?

Gender and social equity is one of the four cross-cutting themes presented in Chapter 2 of the LEGS Handbook. The chapter highlights the importance of understanding roles, rights and responsibilities and the differential impact of crises on different groups of people; making sure information collected is disaggregated by gender; and understanding vulnerability and equity. Further guidance is provided in the specific technical chapters.


  • climate change?

Environment and climate is one of the four cross-cutting themes presented in Chapter 2 of the LEGS Handbook. The chapter recognises current climate trends and their differential impact in different parts of the world, and highlights the importance for agencies involved in disaster risk reduction among livestock keepers to keep abreast of developments and future trends in this area. Further guidance is provided in the specific technical chapters.


  • companion animals in disasters?

LEGS is based on a livelihoods approach and draws on a comprehensive review of evaluations that shows how certain types of livestock-related assistance can provide financial or nutritional benefits to people affected by disasters. Given this humanitarian and livelihoods perspectives of LEGS, companion animals are not explicitly mentioned in the Handbook although it is recognised that these animals provide important social benefits for their owners. Many of the LEGS Standards and Guidance Notes apply to companion animals, and specific guidance is available from the Animal Welfare Information Center at the United States Department of Agriculture (AWIC)

Does LEGS apply to crises in high-income countries?

LEGS originated from a workshop in East Africa that reviewed experiences from livestock projects in complex emergencies or droughts in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan and Sudan. In the case of complex emergencies, these were long-term disasters affecting many millions of people over many years. In the case of droughts, again these affected millions of people – often across two or more countries – and were recurrent. For both types of disaster, there had been substantial funding from the main humanitatian aid donors, and large-scale responses coordinated by governments or the UN. As LEGS started to take shape from 2005, initial discussions with agencies such as FAO, ICRC, Oxfam GB and VSF re-affirmed the need for LEGS to cover major humanitarian crises where many people were dependent on livestock. In general, developing countries rather than industrialized countries are a greater risk of humanitarian disasters, and disasters where substantial numbers of people are affected. Similarly, the term “humanitarian diaster” is partly defined by the capacity of local people and governments to respond. Such capacity is more likely to be insufficient in developing countries, which tend not to have the emergency planning and response capabilities, or national insurance schemes for disasters.

Furthermore, in high-income countries, some priorities for emergency response may differ from the priorities for poorer livestock keepers in low-income countries.  For example, in high-income countries, issues relating to insurance or companion animals may be prioritised, but since LEGS does not focus on these issues the LEGS Standards and guidelines may therefore be less appropriate. However, key principles of the LEGS approach, including the importance of consultation and participation, building on existing local knowledge, and supporting livelihoods, are relevant to any livestock-based response to an emergency. Some practitioners have found the LEGS approach useful in disaster responses in high-income countries.

LEGS Handbook

The LEGS Handbook

The LEGS Handbook provides standards and guidelines for appropriate and timely livestock-based livelihoods responses in emergencies, using a participatory and evidence-based approach. The Handbook was produced through a broad consultation process, drawing on good practice worldwide. The LEGS Handbook is a companion to The Sphere Handbook alongside other humanitarian standards which make up the Humanitarian Standards Partnership.

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