Time of Transition
Since the 2010 earthquake, SOIL has been one of the few NGOs to provide consistent, safe, dignified sanitation to residents of tent camps around Port-au-Prince. Four and a half years after the later, there is still much rebuilding to be done in Haiti. However, as tent camps continue to slowly empty, SOIL has begun to shift from emergency relief to long-term development.
Development in the sanitation sector is sorely needed. Even before the earthquake, the vast majority (approximately 80%) of Haitians lacked access to safe sanitation. SOIL is working to change this reality by researching and developing a social business model for sanitation. SOIL’s model is one of the few interventions around the world that has shown early success in creating a financially-sustainable sanitation service that eliminates the need for waterborne sewage systems and produces an endless supply of safe, agricultural-grade compost to increase soil water retention and improve food security.
In line with this model, SOIL is converting former emergency toilets into communal household toilets, in which a group of families share the cost of maintenance (approximately $5 USD/month). SOIL collects wastes from the ecological sanitation (EcoSan) toilets and transports them to a composting waste treatment facility where the waste is safely transformed into rich, agricultural-grade compost. This compost is then sold for agricultural application, improving both the fertility and water retention of soil. Revenue from monthly toilet user fees, waste treatment fees, and compost sales are collected to support ongoing project costs and to showcase the private sector potential to affordably and sustainably provide sanitation services in the world’s most impoverished and water-scarce communities.
Learn more about SOIL’s social business model at our new Global Giving project, Expanding Sustainable Sanitation in Haiti.
We hope that you will stay connected with our work in Haiti by following @SOILHaiti on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Piti Piti Zwazo Fè Nich Li
“Little by little the bird makes its nest.” –Haitian Proverb
Last month marked the four-year anniversary of the earthquake that devastated Haiti. Since January 12, 2010, SOIL has provided emergency sanitation services for over 20,000 displaced people. Over the past four years, SOIL has been privileged to witness the closing of many of the tent cities we service as people have found or built permanent homes. SOIL’s emergency sanitation program is now working in only six tent camp communities in Port-au-Prince where we serve approximately 3,500 people. In the Shada neighborhood of Cap Haitien, an area that is extremely vulnerable to water-borne disease and cholera, SOIL provides emergency sanitation for an additional 3,000 people.
In many ways, SOIL’s emergency sanitation program has helped with the design and success of our current social business pilot. SOIL’s experience providing emergency sanitation services has afforded us many lessons, and we have used what we’ve learned over the years to refine our toilet designs and improve our maintenance operations. SOIL’s emergency sanitation program has also increased demand for EcoSan toilets in Haiti. SOIL’s public toilets in the tent cities are known for being some of the cleanest, most hygienic toilets in the country. We know this is a rare thing to say about public toilets, but it’s true! Our SOIL public toilet managers and staff have kept the toilets sparkling clean over the years, and the EcoSan toilets are so desirable that SOIL’s friends and visitors have been known to go out of their way to use SOIL’s public toilets when out in the city. As a true testament to the success of this emergency effort, former residents of tent settlement frequently ask our employees if they can continue to have a SOIL toilet once they leave the camps. People like the simplicity, cleanliness, and sustainable nature of SOIL’s EcoSan toilets.
In a landscape dotted with abandoned projects and in an atmosphere defined by empty promises and deflated expectations, people appreciate SOIL’s reliability. We believe that your support of SOIL’s emergency sanitation program has not only helped us to maintain critical emergency services in some of the country’s most vulnerable communities, but that it has also helped SOIL to expand the realm of possibilities for sustainable sanitation in Haiti. Thank you for your continued support of this important project, and for aiding SOIL’s transition from emergency to household toilets.
Following the 2010 earthquake, SOIL built emergency ecological sanitation (EcoSan) toilets in camps throughout Port-au-Prince, providing sanitation services for thousands of people displaced by the earthquake. Nearly three years after the earthquake, and in face of one of the largest and most virulent cholera outbreaks in recent global history, many of SOIL's emergency toilets remain in operation and continue to provide a crucial service to people still living in urban camps. For many of these people, a toilet can mean the difference between life and death, between the return of cholera and the possibility of health.
Thanks to your support, SOIL has been able to maintain these emergency sanitation services for over 3,500 people still living in Haiti’s most vulnerable communities. And because all the wastes from these specially-designed EcoSan toilets were collected and safely treated through the simple ecological process of thermophilic composting, SOIL produced thousands of gallons of EcoSan compost as a result. This rich, organic compost will be used to rebuild Haiti’s fragile soil.
Long after most other NGOs have shut down their emergency sanitation programs, the SOIL emergency toilets remain operational and well maintained at the extremely low cost of less than $2.50 per person per month. Our paid toilet managers help to bring a valued service to their communities, while simultaneously representing the possibility of hope, of employment, and of health. Although the emergency sanitation program is ultimately meant to be temporary, its maintenance has several long-term implications, including increased knowledge, understanding, and acceptance of EcoSan technology, healthier lives for the people utilizing SOIL's environmentally-conscious toilets, and increased employment potential for people trained as toilet managers.
Over the coming year, SOIL will work to keep these toilets open as we find it unconscionable to close down our emergency toilets until viable alternative programs have been identified and implemented. And we will also scale up our activities to design and test a social business model for affordably and sustainably providing ecological sanitation services throughout Haiti.
We sincerely thank you for support of this important effort, and we hope that you will stay connected with our progress throughout the coming year.
SOIL’s emergency public toilets in Haiti are kept open, operational, and clean by a team of 38 paid public toilet managers. Nowhere else in the world do public toilets stay clean and open to the public without cost, and Haiti is no exception. SOIL’s public toilet managers play a critical role in ensuring clean, dignified sanitation access for the thousands of people living in the Port-au-Prince tent camps serviced through SOIL’s emergency sanitation program. Many of the camp committees (the community-based governing organizations within displacement camps) work with SOIL to spread these few employment positions to as many vulnerable individuals and families as possible. Since the earthquake, SOIL's emergency sanitation program overall has provided short-term employment for more than 350 individuals.
Why do we feel that our toilet managers are heroes?
Because the only way to stop Haiti's sanitation crisis and deadly cholera epidemic is through provision of sanitation services, and SOIL’s emergency sanitation program is a crucial part of this struggle. Our public toilet managers work hard to ensure that our toilets are kept open, clean, and well-functioning. Long after most other organizations have shut down their emergency sanitation programs, the SOIL emergency toilets remain operational and well maintained thanks to our manager's tireless commitment.
Haitian perspectives on sanitation:
The following was written by Herby Sanon, SOIL's Sanitation Supervisor in Port-au-Prince, and translated from Haitian Creole into English. Herby interviewed several of SOIL's toilet managers to offer their unique perspective on SOIL's work within the context of a major sanitation crisis in Haiti.
"My friend Frantz François works in Cite Soleil and he never stops engaging in his work. For him, SOIL offers salvation and is a guiding light for people who used to go to the bathroom in the brook near where he lives. Frantz has seen a change within 90% of the population in Cite Soleil and he says that he won’t stop working with SOIL until all of Cite Soleil has been improved.
Marie-Mineuve, who manages two toilets for SOIL since 2010, didn’t want to miss the chance to give her impression of SOIL. She considers SOIL more than a blessing that fell from the heavens. She was in despair and SOIL changed her life and her family’s life. Without SOIL, she would have left the camp where she was staying. While everyone else was leaving the camp, she said that she stayed to work with SOIL and that she will always work with us not only because it is an employment opportunity but because of all that SOIL is doing for the country of Haiti.
My voice joins all of the others in saying: ‘SOIL, thank you so much for making this huge chain of transformation in everyday life after the earthquake of January 12 2010. Our dream is to see SOIL cover the whole country of Haiti. I feel that I do not have the words to explain how much SOIL does and what the organization brings to my life.’
--Herby Sanon, SOIL Sanitation Supervisor
As you can see from this piece, SOIL’s public toilet managers help to bring a valued service to their communities, while simultaneously representing the possibility of hope, of employment, and of health. Although the emergency sanitation program is ultimately meant to be temporary, its maintenance has several long-term implications: increased knowledge, understanding, and acceptance of EcoSan technology, healthier lives for the people utilizing SOIL's environmentally conscious toilets, and increased employment potential for people trained as toilet managers and operators.
From all of us at SOIL:
Together we believe we can make Frantz Francois’s dream come true for all of Haiti: we will not give up until everyone in the country has access to dignified, life-saving sanitation. Mesi anpil (thank you so much) to all of our supporters who make this very important work possible.
With love from Haiti,
Twice a week a large colorfully painted truck rumbles out of the SOIL office gate to drive through the capital city collecting waste from SOIL's EcoSan toilets. More than 5,000 people living in tent cities around Port-au-Prince currently depend on the SOIL "Poopmobile" to pick up their full toilet drums and deliver them to the SOIL compost site for safe treatment and transformation into rich, organic compost. Sadly, after 3 years of faithful service, the Poopmobile has broken down beyond the point of repair, and we're now working to raise money for a replacement Poopmobile II.
Over the past two days we've received an overwhelming outpouring of support from around the world, and we're now over halfway towards our goal replacing the Poopmobile. Learn more at http://www.oursoil.org/save-the-poopmobile/
Thank you to everyone who has joined us on the campaign to replace the Poopmobile!
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