This month at our Cap-Haitien SOIL office, we welcomed a group of five new agricultural interns: Kettelyne, Marie Jocelyne, Emmanuel, Stanley, and Julien. Coming from local universities, they will be performing experiments with SOIL compost to test just how much of a difference it can make for local farmers - both in terms of yield and increased profits at market prices. This research helps them complete the requiremnts of hteir agronomy degrees while also giving them valuable hands-on experience in sustainable agriculture. And their research also helps SOIL as we use their findings to market our compost and improve the information we provide to farmers.
In the past, we have found that applying SOIL compost to peppers could increase a farmer’s profits by over $5,000 per hectare. This is spectacular news for Haiti. This beautiful country was once known as the Pearl of the Antilles for its incredibly rich and fertile soil, however more recently agricultural productivity has been in the decline due to soil erosion and lack of access to soil amendments and fertilizer. We look forward to supporting the agricultural experiments of our new interns, as together we work to ensure that farmers are able to make a decent living from their work.
SOIL is proud to be supporting these promising Haitian youth in their studies. We believe that access to education, livelihood opportunities, health, and ecological growth go hand-in-hand.
Photo credits: Vic Hinterlang
"Would you like to visit our waste treatment site?" This is a question that we ask some of the hundreds of visitors that come to visit SOIL in Port-au-Prince and Cap-Haitien each year. You might be surprised how many times the response is an enthusiastic "Yes!"
We find that our biggest supporters are people who understand the importance of finding ecologically harmonious and financially sustainable models for development. They recognize that ecological sanitation (EcoSan) is such a solution. In Cap-Haitien, SOIL's agricultural team has taken a particular interest in receiving visitors to spread the word about EcoSan, not only as an effective technology that eradicates dangerous pathogens and restores soil health with compost, but as a way of redefining the very concept of waste.
Romel Toussaint, SOIL Cap-Haitien's Director of Agriculture, says that we need to continue to valorize waste in Haiti to increase pride in sustainability and the recovery of vital resources. SOIL valorizes human waste by turning it into a valuable soil amendment, and our compost has been flying off the shelves in Haiti. Each client that buys our "Konpòs Lakay" experiences the amazing results of compost first hand.
Romel's favorite saying around the office is "Kaka Kapab!" which means "Poop Can!" It sounds silly, but we're dead serious about retrieving and reusing nutrients. A recent study published in the journal Science, found that the nitrogen-phosphorus cycle, vital to clean water and human life, has been dangerously compromised by human activity. With "tipping points" like these on the horizon, there is no better time for us to celebrate the increased capacity of our waste treatment sites to generate compost in Haiti. And we are also very excited to see the passion of our agricultural team has for sustainable farming practices and nutrient conservation. By proving a successful model in Haiti, we are spreading global lessons that are more important than ever.
Since our project "Generating Organic Compost for Farming in Haiti" began, we have doubled our waste treatment capacity. The more that we continue to expand our capacity to generate compost in Haiti, the more that people will feel empowered to harness the power of so-called waste to create resources. Thank you for your support in helping us to achieve this mission.
Miniature Customers photo courtesy of Harvest107 / credit Tausha Ann Photo
Romel Toussaint and the team at work photo courtesy of Sashwa Burrous
SOIL has been working in Haiti to research and develop sustainable sanitation solutions that provide livelihoods opportunities in the private sector. For example, our EkoLakay household toilet program is a social business pilot that is testing a revolutionary new way to sustainably provide affordable, dignified sanitation services. In this program, a family pays approximately $5 per month to rent their toilet, and this fee covers maintenance and biweekly waste collection. After collecting the buckets and providing clean ones in return, SOIL takes the toilet waste to a treatment site to safely transform it into rich, organic compost. This compost is then used to rebuild Haiti's soil and support reforestation and agriculture.
The EkoLakay program currently has 296 paid toilets serving 2,225 people. However, with your support we are excited to be scaling up with a goal of reaching at least 7,500 people over the coming year. Along this journey to scale-up, we will continue to research opportunities to create local jobs along the sanitation value chain. We are currently experimenting with neighborhood collection points that will help us reduce transportation costs and provide income for a local EkoLakay manager or franchise owner. We are still working on this pilot, so stay tuned!
In another effort to support the local economy, we have also decided to hand over toilet construction to local entrepreneurs. We have trained local carpenters to make EkoLakay toilets, and each time we expand the EkoLakay business we place a request for bids with these local carpentars who then construct a given number of toilets that SOIL then purchases. Our parameters are that the toilets must be able to fit a waste collection bucket inside, have space for urine diversion, and be constructed for less than $50 per unit.
A local women's collective has taken on the challenge and won several big bids with SOIL. We bought ferro-cement toilets from them and we are happy with the product. An exciting byproduct of collaborating with local carpenters is that they have innovative ideas to change the technology in ways that we never thought of before. They've come up with improvements that our customers like even better than the original design. Katy, one of these carpenters, says that she has enjoyed expanding her technical skills during training the SOIL team.
SOIL is proud to be providing jobs to 70 staff members and contracting with local independent carpenters. As our EkoLakay household toilet program expands, we will be generating even more independent livelihood opportunities so that Haiti will be on a path to create hundreds of new jobs and achieve 100% access to sanitation, decreasing the country's dependence on foreign aid while boosting the economy and increasing health and agricultural productivity. It's a big goal, but we believe it's possible. Thank you for your support!