Jun 3, 2020

Cost-Effectiveness Study Shows Promising Results

With more than four billion people still lacking access to safe sanitation globally, we know that it’s going to take a multitude of innovative solutions to successfully tackle a crisis of this proportion. Citywide Inclusive Sanitation–the idea that a variety of alternatives to traditional sewer systems will be needed to “genuinely deliver universal coverage across whole urban areas” – has been gaining strong momentum in recent years.

This notion that a one-size-fits-all solution to the global sanitation crisis is not realistic means that municipalities need comparative data on all sanitation solutions so that they can make the best choices for expanding access to safe sanitation in their local context. But, for so long, this data has been inaccessible, incomplete, and challenging to compare. It is essential that decision makers can assess how the safety and cost of container-based toilets like SOIL’s compare to pit latrines or a flush toilets. These factors can vary dramatically in different contexts, though. For example, a flush toilet with a septic tank in a densely populated settlement in Cap-Haitien will have very different construction and operating costs than one in Nairobi, Kenya, just like the safety of a latrine in low-lying Antanaviro, Madagascar may differ dramatically from one built in mountainous Lima.

Comparing Container-Based Sanitation Costs

While SOIL and our Container-based Sanitation Alliance (CBSA) partners all ensure full safety through the full sanitation value-chain, it’s clear from the World Bank’s case study from 2018 that cost drivers vary considerably among CBSA providers. For that reason, the CBSA, the Stone Family Foundation and the Osprey Foundation commissioned a team of consultants from EY (formerly Ernst & Young) to gather data comparing each of the six CBSA members to sanitation alternatives in their contexts. In most cities, this turned out to be easier said than done. Why? When informal laborers are digging pits for latrines or emptying their contents and they aren’t keeping accounting of their costs, as is frequently the case, it makes comparisons challenging. SOIL’s analysis was further complicated by the fact that our friends at EY were unable to travel to Haiti to do the assessment in person as they had done for the other contexts. But the EY team persevered, reviewing mountains of literature, interviewing CBS service providers, and consulting government partners and other stakeholders.

Efficient, Safe, and Durable Solutions for Rapidly Growing Cities

In the end, the data has yielded some fascinating findings! As SOIL works to sustainably expand access to cost-effective, regenerative sanitation solutions for some of the world’s most under-resourced urban communities, the results from this research will provide critical information to our government and donor stakeholders. While the summary report has yet to be released, the SOIL Cap-Haitien case study showed that when comparing direct operating costs, SOIL’s service is the lowest-cost safe sanitation option, costing 13% less than pit latrines, 40% less than septic tanks, and 69% less than sewers per household basis per year. While this affordability is certainly worthy of celebration, it also doesn’t take into consideration the upfront capital expenditures needed to install a sewer system or assess the feasibility of providing uninterrupted safely managed sanitation access in a city with limited space, unreliable energy and water inputs, contested land tenure, and high water tables.

What’s Next

In addition to proving to be the most cost-effective safe sanitation intervention in Haiti, SOIL’s sanitation service also provides a myriad of other positive externalities: preserving water and energy resources, releasing less greenhouse gas emissions, sequestering carbon, increasing local food production, and creating dignified employment opportunities. SOIL’s revolutionary CBS solution has time and time again proven resilient to a high-risk environment, representing a significant breakthrough in the urban sanitation field and opening the potential of scaling rapidly in cities lacking sanitation services.

We’re looking forward to finalizing the case study for translation and sharing with Haiti’s water and sanitation authority, DINEPA, as well as local governments and other stakeholders. Once the full study is published, we’ll be sure to share it on SOIL’s resources page online and across social media @SOIL Haiti. Stay tuned!

Mar 12, 2020

2,000 Bags of Compost Cultivate Food Production

Haiti’s local food systems have been hit hard by the worsening political and economic situation in Haiti, with ongoing challenges for farmers trying to get their food to markets, and for families facing devastating price increases. As a result, food scarcity has worsened in Haiti for some of the country’s most vulnerable communities. Though the underlying problems are complex and stem beyond degraded soils alone, the growing challenges for local farmers and families struggling to put food on the table is a strong reminder of the critical need to invest in efforts to increase local production.

By treating and transforming waste into organic agricultural-grade compost, SOIL’s teams continue to help cultivate local production while simultaneously restoring soil health, saving water, and supporting rural livelihood opportunities across Haiti – one bag of compost at a time.

One of SOIL’s long-time compost customers has been using SOIL’s lush compost since 2016 to support their agriculture projects in Haiti. Over the years they have purchased more than 2,000 bags of SOIL compost from our Cap-Haïtien composting facility. With it, they have improved the soil quality in gardens all across the country that are run by community members who grow, harvest and sell what they’ve produced.

Ismael started working for the organization as a technician agronomist and is now the coordinator of their gardening program. Read the interview with Ismael below to learn more about the impact that SOIL’s agricultural-grade compost is having in gardens all the way from the Artibonite river valley to Grand Anse to the capital city of Port-au-Prince!

Continued Use and Benefits of SOIL’s Compost

 “SOIL is an organization that produces an organic compost that we tested and found [to be of] good quality. We don’t need to look for another product anymore! We only support the organic agricultural system which is what the nature has offered us. Consequently, there will be no harmful effects on people’s health. All of our technicians report back to us of the good quality of the SOIL compost. The proof is in the [healthy] development [they’ve] observed in the plants. The quality of the product is what has kept us as a customer.” To learn more about the long-term benefits of SOIL compost application to increased harvests in Haiti, explore the research here.

Using Compost to Improve Health and Grow Food

“One of the biggest problems in the country is the fact that we use products that have secondary [harmful] effects on health, but SOIL came with this product that improves public health [and] strengthens the ecologic balance …. It is very important, it keeps the environment safe. The compost helps by preserving the soil health whereas the chemical products destroy the microorganisms. As a consequence, the presence of organic fertilizers helps in amending the soil. If there were more organizations that produce such fertilizers at a higher scale, more people would use it.”

We love hearing stories like this from our compost customers! At the end of the interview, Ismael also mentioned his hopes for SOIL. He said he hoped that SOIL would have success in producing and selling larger quantities of compost because it will help “Haiti to have less people consuming food products from other countries that are not good for [our] health.” We hope so too and we look forward to seeing how their newest garden in Port-au-Prince will flourish in the months to come!

Mar 12, 2020

Updates from SOIL's Black Soldier Fly Research

Last summer, SOIL began an experiment that evaluated the potential of another waste-to-resource technology at our compost site: flies! The study looked at breeding black soldier fly (BSF) larvae for use as chicken feed. The goal of the research was to determine whether we could successfully grow BSF larvae, which feed on waste, at our Cap-Haïtien waste treatment site. If successful, the production of BSF larvae to sell as chicken feed could become an additional stream of revenue for SOIL’s waste treatment operations. The research, led by SOIL Research Associate Michèle in partnership with visiting researcher Dani, has already yielded promising results! 

The Experiment

The questions we wanted answered were: Can we manage to grow larvae in captivity under the local conditions in Cap-Haïtien? Will the larvae like the waste? And lastly, can we successfully breed the larvae by growing them into adult flies to lay more eggs for future larvae?

Attempts to grow BSF larvae fed on 100% human waste is not always successful, so the experiment included tests of five different feed mixtures:

  • 100% human waste from SOIL sanitation service
  • 70% human waste + 30% food waste
  • 70% human waste + 30% peanuts
  • 70% human waste + 30% spent grain from Haiti’s famous Prestige beer brewery
  • 100% brewery waste

Promising Results

After a lot of hard work and patience, we are thrilled to share that all of the BSF larvae survived and grew in all five of the different feed mixes!

After this success, SOIL’s research team wanted to attempt breeding the flies to see if we could recreate the life cycle of the BSF in captivity.  We created a fly cage for the larvae and set up a place for the flies to lay eggs once they had grown into adult flies. Breeding is rarely successful during the first attempt, but with some perseverance, eggs emerged and we are now on our third generation of larvae! We have also done feeding tests with some chickens to see how they responded to the larvae. The chickens munched away, proving that BSF larvae are an excellent source for chicken feed!

The success of this experiment means that SOIL can potentially rear BSF larvae on the waste collected from our sanitation service to sell as chicken feed, providing resources for other important local sectors and supporting food security in northern Haiti.

We had the chance to present the findings from the research to Haiti’s water and sanitation authority in November and they were excited by the results. More specifically, they liked the concept of the technology and the potential it has for organic waste transformation. We will continue to meet with and present new findings to Haiti’s water and sanitation authority as the study progresses. 

Coming Up

One important parameter for analysis in the BSF larvae experiment is the moisture content in the waste feed for the larvae and we aren’t sure how a difference in moisture might have influenced the results. For round two of the study beginning this month, we plan to test various moisture levels of the waste, complete a market study on chicken feed, and keep the current BSF colony alive. In partnership with UC Davis, the team also plans to analyze the BSF larvae for potential contaminants and determine their exact protein and fat content. We’re not done just yet – stay tuned!


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