Expanding Sanitation Acess in Urban Haiti

by SOIL
Expanding Sanitation Acess in Urban Haiti
Expanding Sanitation Acess in Urban Haiti
Expanding Sanitation Acess in Urban Haiti
Expanding Sanitation Acess in Urban Haiti
Expanding Sanitation Acess in Urban Haiti
Expanding Sanitation Acess in Urban Haiti
Expanding Sanitation Acess in Urban Haiti
Expanding Sanitation Acess in Urban Haiti
Expanding Sanitation Acess in Urban Haiti
Expanding Sanitation Acess in Urban Haiti

SOIL is working hard to transform the global sanitation crisis, and we know that it is going to take innovative solutions to provide safe and dignified sanitation options to those that are without. Throughout the years we have been working in Haiti, SOIL has demonstrated the ability to innovate and refine our model to meet the needs of vulnerable communities, while facing political, social, and environmental instability. This year alone, we’ve piloted multiple improvements to operational efficiency to optimize our service and increase customer satisfaction. One of our most successful innovations to date involves utilizing digital technology tools to increase the efficiency of our household toilet service, EkoLakay.  

SOIL’s digital innovations were featured in a recent blog post by GSMA, a global organization unifying the mobile ecosystem to deliver innovation for positive business environments and societal change. The blog explores the role of digital solutions in ensuring that container-based sanitation models, like SOIL’s, remain commercially viable.  

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. During that time, we were also working with DataKind to develop software that would optimize collection route efficiency to allow for future expansion. Since using the DataKind software, along with the TaroWorks app we’ve been able to reduce collection time and lower transportation costs.    

As mentioned in the article, mobile technology can also facilitate and improve revenue collection,  to reduce the burden on both clients and the service and increase efficiency. In countries such as Haiti, where mobile payments are less widespread, this can be difficult to achieve and often requires specific communication campaigns. SOIL implemented some of the first mobile payment tools for basic service and has ultimately been successful in achieving an over 80% adoption rate. 

While adopting a new technology in a context with little precedent can be challenging, SOIL was pleased with the uptake and the ability for technology to lower the barrier for customers’ ease of payment.  Having a system that can collect and manage customer contact information, household location, waste collection details, toilet repairs, bill payment, and other data in one central place has been a crucial step in refining our EkoLakay household toilet service.  Using digital tools is necessary for scaling the service as we continue to reach more vulnerable households in Haiti.  

We are thankful to GSMA for highlighting our work, and the work of other CBS providers, as we  continue to promote innovative, inclusive and sustainable solutions for the global sanitation crisis! Read the full article on GSMA here.        

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SOIL's EkoLakay toilet
SOIL's EkoLakay toilet

SOIL launched the first container-based toilet in 2006 in Haiti, and since then a number of organizations around the world have launched their own container-based toilet services to address the lack of access to improved sanitation and meet the needs of vulnerable populations.  

What is container-based sanitation?

Container-based sanitation (CBS) utilizes standalone toilets that store waste in sealable, removable containers. SOIL’s service provides household toilets, with weekly door-to-door waste collection service. The full containers are replaced with empty ones and the collected containers are then transported to our waste treatment facility for safe treatment and transformation into compost.  

When we began our work in Haiti fifteen years ago, we were committed to designing a sanitation solution that was sustainable, scalable and fit the local context. Haiti’s lack of waste treatment infrastructure, combined with an enormous need to find a solution that could serve densely populated, informal, and flood-prone communities meant that traditional waste treatment options like pit latrines and septic systems are often unsuitable and environmentally hazardous. SOIL’s EkoLakay toilets further meet the need of impoverished households through affordable service, as well as households that do not have access to a water source (for septic systems) or municipal-level sanitation infrastructure, which is non-existent in Haiti.  

Globally, both individuals and government entities can be reluctant or unable to invest in costly sanitation infrastructure in informal urban settlements with contested land tenure, but CBS toilets require no such up-front investments, typically only a monthly rental service fee. In addition, many of these communities exist on land that is undesirable for formal development, in large part because it is prone to flooding. CBS toilets have been intentionally designed for these environments, to mitigate the potential contamination risk during high-flood events through sealable containers.

Finally, container- based sanitation services offer an opportunity to establish sanitation infrastructure by using a market-based approach to foster a model for private business replication and job creation.

Reaching more people with safe sanitation

As the population of urban slums around the world continues to grow, so does the risk of public health catastrophes associated with poor sanitation. CBS can play a significant role in communities like those we serve in Haiti, that do not have access to conventional household toilets or sewage systems.

In 2013 SOIL helped co-found the Container-Based Sanitation Alliance (CBSA), a coalition of service providers around the world working together to extend our collective impact – getting more toilets to more families through knowledge-sharing, partnerships, research, and other collaborative initiatives. It is through these partnerships and the sharing of information and knowledge that we hope to reach more communities around the globe. SOIL is currently providing over 8,700 people in Haiti with access to safe sanitation through our EkoLakay container-based sanitation (CBS) service. CBS services like SOIL’s are critical in the struggle to expand citywide sanitation, achieve SDG6, and find solutions to the sanitation crisis so that people may live life to the fullest potential.

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In addition to SOIL’s household sanitation service, over this past year – in response to the COVID-19 pandemic – we’ve partnered with local authorities to provide safe sanitation access to public areas around Cap-Haitien, including public toilets at the very busy central market.  Responding to the pandemic in communities with low-resources is complex, particularly when it comes to shared public facilities. However, it is evident that not having access to any sanitation option can be more harmful for spreading infectious disease and potentially contaminating scarce water resources. SOIL is proud to provide access to safe and dignified sanitation to mitigate public health crises during these uncertain times. Our public toilets are carefully managed with on-site staff that ensure that toilets are cleaned and sanitized and that users have access to hand-washing stations.

According to Louis, one of SOIL’s public toilet managers, “customers are happy to have toilets in the market and they give lots of positive comments about the quality of the service.” SOIL recently conducted interviews of market-goers to gather feedback so that we can better meet the needs of communities we serve.

SOIL’s Executive Associate, Carine, sat down with Pierre, a public toilet customer and merchant, who offered great feedback. Check out the interview below!

Carine: How did you hear about SOIL?/Did you know about SOIL’s in-home toilets?

Pierre: I heard about SOIL from other merchants and the news of the installations of the in-home toilets is spreading by word of mouth.

Carine: What do you think about the public toilets?

Pierre: Having public toilets is essential for the market. They are different from the type of toilets I am familiar with, but they are clean and don’t smell, just like flush toilets.

Carine: What is the impact that you see EkoLakay is having in the market and in the city itself?

Pierre: I used to take a taxi to go home when I needed to go to the restroom during the day, or I would go to a friend’s house in the area if it was more urgent. Now I can use the EkoLakay toilet as much as I need during the day. EkoLakay allows people who live further away and who don’t have other options to defecate properly so not to harm the environment.

Carine: Is there anything else you would like to tell us?

Pierre: If SOIL could add more toilets, it would be beneficial so that people don’t stay away from their business for too long while queuing to use the toilets.

While we continue to grow our household sanitation service, we recognize that it is not a one-size-fits-all solution, and providing urban sanitation coverage requires innovation and complimentary safe sanitation options. SOIL is proud to be making strides towards providing much-needed safe and dignified sanitation services in urban Haiti and we will continue to work to fulfill our commitment to the communities we serve; one toilet at a time.  

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Since its pilot, SOIL’s EkoLakay sanitation service has been carefully designed as a holistic model that can offer benefits beyond a simple household toilet. Rather than thinking solely about EkoLakay’s potential for individual impact, we’ve used sanitation provision as a starting point for designing a solution that leverages the interconnection between sanitation, climate, and human rights. This is evident in SOIL’s waste treatment and composting facility, where we turn human waste from the EkoLakay toilets into regenerative compost that can stabilize Haiti’s fragile soils. More recently, a study conducted on SOIL’s composting facility offers groundbreaking insight into an additional avenue of positive ecological potential: climate mitigation. This research has re-invigorated SOIL’s deeply rooted ambition that there is potential for far-reaching impact in the sanitation sector through climate-positive solutions.

The study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, found that for each person on the EkoLakay service, greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 126 kilograms of carbon dioxide (kg CO2e) can be offset per year (approximately 800 kg CO2e per household per year). We wanted to better quantify and understand what this could mean for individuals using the EkoLakay service, we reached out to a few greenhouse gas researchers to help us put into perspective the potential for carbon offsets per household.

The researchers noted that, remarkably, the amount of greenhouse gas mitigated by EkoLakay equates to almost half of the average per capita carbon dioxide emitted by Haitians in 2018, which is approximately 270 kg CO2e. [1] Where, carbon emissions per capita are measured as the total amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the country as a consequence of all relevant human (production and consumption) activities, divided by the population of the country.

Further, to put this in perspective, the emissions saved through EkoLakay per household per year roughly correspond to half of the overall emission of greenhouse gas produced by an average car in a year. For example, a Toyota RAV4 manufactured in 2006 with an average (tailpipe) greenhouse gas emission of 0.37 kg CO2e per mile that is used on average for 12 miles a day emits approximately 1,620 kg CO2e in a year (upstream greenhouse gas emissions not included). [2]

For SOIL, this is evidence of the important role that safely managed sanitation can have in providing an essential service that mitigates public health risk and potential environmental contamination; it also serves as a proof point that sanitation providers have a larger role to play in the climate solution. This is particularly true in densely populated and poor urban areas that are largely left out of the climate conversation. Access to safe sanitation is an essential human right, but it also has has increasingly greater potential to be an empowering mechanism for providing the world’s poor with a voice in the climate sphere.

We at SOIL are always fighting to find a voice for the communities and beneficiaries we serve. We are so thankful for our partners in this research and for our friends and supporters around the world who enable us to continue sharing the impact and potential of this work. This research represents an exciting breakthrough for both the sanitation sector and vulnerable communities in Haiti and around the globe that have access to container-based sanitation!

1] https://ourworldindata.org/co2-and-other-greenhouse-gas-emissions#co2-embedded-in-trade

[2] https://fueleconomy.gov/feg/findacar.shtml

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Organization Information

SOIL

Location: Sherburne, New York - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @SOILhaiti
Project Leader:
Eliza Parish
Sherburne, New York United States
$20,775 raised of $30,000 goal
 
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