Jan 26, 2021

Providing Dignified Sanitation with Mobile Technology

As we continue to grow and expand our services in Haiti, we recognize the need to keep improving our operational efficiency. The SOIL team is continuously researching and testing new ways to provide better and more efficient sanitation solutions. Covid-19 created unprecedented challenges to organizations like ours, that rely on community field agents to provide goods and services to vulnerable populations in emerging markets. Thanks to the TaroWorks mobile field service app, we’ve been able to provide uninterrupted sanitation services to the communities we serve in Haiti during these uncertain times.

SOIL began using TaroWork’s digital tools in 2016, to collect payments, manage customer accounts, conduct research, and test marketing strategies. Since then, we’ve been using the data collected to optimize our logistics and make refinements to EkoLakay, like rolling out a mobile payment collection service. When the pandemic began, SOIL anticipated having to bring in temporary waste collectors to supplement field agents who might fall ill. While full-time staff had memorized collection routes, these fill-in team members needed a way to navigate collection routes quickly and efficiently.

According to Erica, SOIL’s R&D Director, during that time, we were also working with DataKind to develop software that would optimize collection route efficiency to allow for future expansion. The DataKind software, along with the TaroWorks app, gave the fill-in waste collectors access to turn-by-turn directions, allowing them to complete collection regardless of their knowledge of customers or neighborhoods. At the same time, this approach reduced collection time and lowered transportation costs.    

In addition to helping the waste collectors quickly learn their collection routes, the TaroWorks app also increased our operational efficiency by decreasing overall mileage by 5%, even while the service grew by over 100 households. At SOIL, we are very conscious about greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and our Research team continuously works to analyze and reduce the GHGs emitted from all of our processes, from composting human waste to driving vehicles. By working to improve the efficiency of our collection routes we are cutting down any unnecessary emissions from our vehicles.  

We’re honored to work alongside innovative and collaborative organizations like TaroWorks and DataKind, that are equally driven to provide meaningful solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges and are extremely thankful to have these tools on hand as a critical component of our COVID-19 response plan.

Jan 26, 2021

Composting to Restore Soil Health

In rural areas of Haiti, agriculture production and farming are important occupations for many people. Agriculture is Haiti’s main industry and makes up over 60% of the workforce, with main global exports including mangoes, coffee, papayas and spinach. However, food production can still be quite challenging for many farmers due to depleted soils and periods of drought. Additionally, years of foreign intervention and policy have forced Haiti to rely heavily on cheap global imports for food supply, which has distorted the market for some crops, leaving the supply chains within and into Haiti fragile. This limits access to good sources of food for many Haitians.

In light of these challenges, it is increasingly important to look at innovative ways to strengthen food supply chains and replenish overburdened ecosystems within Haiti. Fertilizer use in Haiti has been a common practice to increase land productivity and crop yields. While chemical fertilizer applications do increase crop yields, they do not nourish long-term soil health and create resilient ecosystems in the same way that organic soil supplements can. In fact, each application of chemical fertilizer depletes the soil, making the next year’s harvest more challenging. Compost has the opposite effect, building up the soil’s health and increasing its resiliency and yield capability year over year. SOIL's Konpòs Lakay model was designed to support soil health through the transformative process of recapturing nutrients from human waste, creating an agricultural grade compost from the waste treatment process, and using the compost to revive depleted soils. 

SOIL’s compost is sold to local farmers and other stakeholders in the ag sector to help grow food and support agricultural production, from urban farm initiatives to reforestation projects.  We recently spoke with Mary, one of SOIL’s compost customers and a resident of Saint-Rapheal, a municipality located about 63 kilometers from Cap-Haitien. Mary has her own garden and uses SOIL’s compost for its beneficial results to her soil and crops. According to Mary, "the compost is of very high quality, and is completely and properly composted." Mary believes that SOIL’s compost is an important tool for Haiti’s ecosystem and food production development: "people need to be educated on the importance of compost and how it can help them grow their food," she said. We agree! If you’re interested in learning more about compost and what it can do, check out this 2018 New York Times Magazine piece featuring longtime SOIL friends John and Peggy.

Oct 1, 2020

Composting Across Countries: A Visit to Kompotoi in Switzerland

As SOIL continues to grow and expand our services in Haiti, we recognize the need to keep improving our operations efficiency, deepening our research, and exploring what others in the sector are doing. We love visiting our container-based sanitation and composting friends around the world, because it gives us a chance to see firsthand what else is going on in the sanitation sector. While back in her home country of France, SOIL’s Compost Program Advisor and Waste Management Engineer took a trip over the border to Switzerland to visit Kompotoi, a mobile dry composting toilet service for the eco-conscious.

Kompotoi’s toilet service provides an interesting window into the operational components of other container-based toilets, and also highlights the desire among the world’s wealthiest countries – on the opposite end of developmental spectrum from Haiti – to seek a more ecologically sustainable solution to sanitation. Kompotoi's director, who previously worked with SOIL this past year on a Human Centered Design project, provided SOIL with a full tour of the toilet workshop and independent composting site to help SOIL better understand Kompotoi’s business model and how they operate.

According to Kompotoi, their customer base is quite broad, and the service is used by everyone from private customers to larger corporate clients needing to service public places and events. The Kompotoi team gave SOIL a tour of the workshop where the toilet units are built, cleaned, and stored. Kompotoi’s toilets are built higher off the ground to allow for the use of larger containers, requiring less frequent collection. Each Kompotoi toilet is also equipped with a men’s urinal. Similar to SOIL’s bonzodè, the cover material used as the “flush” in our water-free household toilets, Kompotoi uses a straw pellet cover material that is easily available in Switzerland.

The independent composting facility (Kunz Baumschulen AG) is primarily used to treat green waste (grass cuttings, branches, leaves, etc.) along with a small component of human waste collected from the composing toilets.  Mechanization, using a large compost turner, is a critical component to the composting operation, allowing for minimal labor required and a much faster treatment and curing process. The compost team noted that the microbes in the compost pile require a lot of oxygen, so with the enhanced mechanization, they are able to easily turn the piles every day to make sure they never run out of oxygen and keep working at maximum efficiency to decompose the waste in a matter of only weeks. Thanks to this process, the compost is ready to sell after 6 weeks of almost daily turning.

It’s incredible to see the innovations around the globe all contributing to a shared goal: sustainable sanitation solutions using ecological processes. While the same type of mechanization might not be a feasible solution in Haiti, SOIL is working to identify similar low-tech and low-cost alternatives that could help us turn compost faster. Supporting job opportunities and promoting job efficiency is critical to our business model and as a social business, we love to learn from others in the sector to understand methods for increasing efficiency, while also finding solutions that are applicable in Haiti.

We’re so thankful for our global thought partnerships and want to say a big thanks to the team at Kompotoi and Kunz Baumschulen AG for their work and for welcoming SOIL and sharing their knowledge on composting processes.

 
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