May 27, 2015

SOIL's First Port-au-Prince Customers

A SOIL EkoLakay toilet
A SOIL EkoLakay toilet

In Port-au-Prince, Haiti, SOIL’s pilot project for the dry household toilets known as “EkoLakay” is off to a terrific start. Our team is looking professional and proud in new spring green uniforms, our operations are becoming more efficient by the day, and our early adopters (the very first customers to sign up for EkoLakay) have been giving dazzling reviews.

One customer, Bertony, said, “Nou gen yon pakèt resous nou gaspiye an Ayiti. Ak twalèt sa nou ka chanje sistèm nan,” which translates to: “We have many many resources in Haiti that are wasted. With this toilet, we can change the system.”

Similar sentiments were echoed elsewhere on a client checkup that we did last week in the Port-au-Prince neighborhood where EkoLakay is just now being introduced. We were also delightfully surprised to see that some new customers are actually choosing to close or remove flush toilets in their homes in favor of SOIL’s toilets. Flush toilets are problemmatic in Haiti because there is often not running water in the toilet tank and there is rarely waste treatment for what gets flushed. But we find it very encouraging that even people who can afford a flush toilet choose a SOIL toilet because they see the environmental and social benefits of using a dry toilet, where the “waste” can be captured and transformed into compost.

To be honest, we had been operating under the assumption that the environmental impact is not ultimately what motivates customers to change their behavior in the bathroom. After speaking with EkoLakay’s early adopters in Port-au-Prince, it looks like we may have been wrong on that one! These kinds of insights can teach us a lot about marketing and behavioral change, two critical components to our social business development. In a country where less than 20% of people have access to safe toilets and there is minimal waste treatment, we are thrilled that individuals are motivated to seek out solutions that benefit themselves and their communities.

We are so proud of our team, our clients, and beneficiaries, and our donors for being brave enough to engage with an issue that is normally taboo. We can’t wait for the day that everyone has access to a safe toilet! Thank you so much for your support in this endeavor.

Potential customers inspect a SOIL toilet
Potential customers inspect a SOIL toilet
SOIL's Sasha Kramer helping collect poo buckets!
SOIL's Sasha Kramer helping collect poo buckets!

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May 27, 2015

SOIL is sold out of compost!

Expanding SOIL's composting waste treatment sites
Expanding SOIL's composting waste treatment sites

In our last update, we were celebrating doubling our capacity at the waste treatment sites. We are still continuing to build even more capacity, but today we are celebrating something else: SOIL is sold out of compost! 

Haiti is a food insecure country, and we are thrilled that this resource is getting into the hands of farmers around the country. Not only does compost increase harvests, it is great for water retention, soil restoration, and it even stores carbon. Which means that with every sack of compost that SOIL sells, Haiti is becoming a little more resistant to droughts, floods that wash away topsoil, climate change, and food insecurity. 

While our compost sales subsidize our waste treatment facilities, we certainly aren’t earning a profit since safe waste treatment in a country with little infrastructure is a very expensive project. We can’t thank you enough for supporting us in providing sanitation and making compost.

SOIL compost bagged for sale in Haiti
SOIL compost bagged for sale in Haiti
Growing fresh spinach in SOIL compost
Growing fresh spinach in SOIL compost

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May 27, 2015

Fish Fry! Sustainable Food Production in Haiti

Growing food in Haiti
Growing food in Haiti

There are a lot of fish metaphors in the development world: Are you teaching a man to fish or simply giving him a one? Can you imagine changing the whole stream? Bill Drayton, the founder of Ashoka said, "Social entrepreneurs are not content just to give a fish, or teach how to fish. They will not rest until they have revolutionized the fishing industry." We are proud that SOIL's work has been recognized by the Ashoka Foundation for exactly the type of entrepreneurial spirit Drayton spoke about.

At SOIL, we want to make sure that our approach is offering integrated solutions that are carefully researched and implemented. In order to solve the sanitation crisis, SOIL takes an ecological approach that turns waste into compost, and thus provides a solution to the agricultural and food security crises at the same time. Our revolutionary proposal is this: there is no such thing as waste! For "waste" can always be transformed into something healthy, beautiful, or useful. And this applies even to poop!

But back to the topic at hand: fish. But this time it’s not a metaphor. Yesterday we harvested the fish from the fish pond at our Cap-Haitien office! It was an aquaponics experiment that our agricultural team was performing in which chicken poop was integrated into the fish pond ecosystem. Our Agricultural Director Romel took the lead. After carefully weighing the fish and recording the data, it was first-come first-serve for the SOIL staff. We’ll be celebrating the revolutionary work of our tireless agricultural team with a fish fry tonight!

SOIL Agriculture Research Intern harvesting beets!
SOIL Agriculture Research Intern harvesting beets!
Weighing the fish harvest!
Weighing the fish harvest!

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