Generating Organic Compost for Farming in Haiti

by SOIL
Generating Organic Compost for Farming in Haiti
Generating Organic Compost for Farming in Haiti
Generating Organic Compost for Farming in Haiti
Generating Organic Compost for Farming in Haiti
Generating Organic Compost for Farming in Haiti
Generating Organic Compost for Farming in Haiti
Generating Organic Compost for Farming in Haiti
Generating Organic Compost for Farming in Haiti
Generating Organic Compost for Farming in Haiti
Generating Organic Compost for Farming in Haiti
Generating Organic Compost for Farming in Haiti
Generating Organic Compost for Farming in Haiti
Andre Vedrine, a member of the SOIL compost team
Andre Vedrine, a member of the SOIL compost team

SOIL’s waste treatment site in northern Haiti, Mouchinette, now has 12 compost bins and three more under construction. We have also have new green uniforms for our staff as well as a huge hangar that was just constructed to store our cover material in bulk quantities. These improvements are extremely exciting to the whole SOIL team, but especially for the six men who make up the compost team.

Their work is unglamorous. It may even be the definition of unglamorous for many people. But these six guys are no short of sanitation superheroes in the eyes of SOIL and the surrounding community.

Why? They take something that is deadly, a leading killer of children under five in Haiti, and transform it into an organic, money-making, earth-nourishing resource. SOIL’s EcoSan system, turning poop into compost, take the problems of access to dignified sanitation and waterborne diseases from fecal contamination, and turn them into the solutions to the agricultural crisis, all while boosting the local economy.

Andre Vedrine has been a member of SOIL’s waste treatment and composting team since 2013. He has a small frame, a big heart, and seven children. He said, “When I first came, Mouchinette was tiny. Now it’s getting huge! This isn’t a game we’re playing here—this is serious! It used to take two and a half weeks to fill up a compost bin; Now we’re filling up the bins every four days.”

Andre said that it’s through teamwork that makes it possible. “We’re a collective. We accomplish everything as a group.”

With nearly 500 household toilets in northern Haiti, it is critical that we have the funding necessary to treat all wastes that we collect. We’re thankful for supporters like you that allow for our team to do this necessary work with more ease and efficiency! 

Building new compost bins at the SOIL site
Building new compost bins at the SOIL site
Loading cover material for SOIL ecological toilets
Loading cover material for SOIL ecological toilets

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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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Miniature compost customers at the SOIL office
Miniature compost customers at the SOIL office

"Would you like to visit our waste treatment site?" This is a question that we ask some of the hundreds of visitors that come to visit SOIL in Port-au-Prince and Cap-Haitien each year. You might be surprised how many times the response is an enthusiastic "Yes!" 

We find that our biggest supporters are people who understand the importance of finding ecologically harmonious and financially sustainable models for development. They recognize that ecological sanitation (EcoSan) is such a solution. In Cap-Haitien, SOIL's agricultural team has taken a particular interest in receiving visitors to spread the word about EcoSan, not only as an effective technology that eradicates dangerous pathogens and restores soil health with compost, but as a way of redefining the very concept of waste. 

Romel Toussaint, SOIL Cap-Haitien's Director of Agriculture, says that we need to continue to valorize waste in Haiti to increase pride in sustainability and the recovery of vital resources. SOIL valorizes human waste by turning it into a valuable soil amendment, and our compost has been flying off the shelves in Haiti. Each client that buys our "Konpòs Lakay" experiences the amazing results of compost first hand.

Romel's favorite saying around the office is "Kaka Kapab!" which means "Poop Can!" It sounds silly, but we're dead serious about retrieving and reusing nutrients. A recent study published in the journal Science, found that the nitrogen-phosphorus cycle, vital to clean water and human life, has been dangerously compromised by human activity. With "tipping points" like these on the horizon, there is no better time for us to celebrate the increased capacity of our waste treatment sites to generate compost in Haiti. And we are also very excited to see the passion of our agricultural team has for sustainable farming practices and nutrient conservation. By proving a successful model in Haiti, we are spreading global lessons that are more important than ever.

Since our project "Generating Organic Compost for Farming in Haiti" began, we have doubled our waste treatment capacity. The more that we continue to expand our capacity to generate compost in Haiti, the more that people will feel empowered to harness the power of so-called waste to create resources. Thank you for your support in helping us to achieve this mission. 

Miniature Customers photo courtesy of Harvest107 credit Tausha Ann Photo

Romel Toussaint and the team at work photo courtesy of Sashwa Burrous

Romel Toussaint and the SOIL team in the office
Romel Toussaint and the SOIL team in the office
SOIL compost, Konpos Lakay!
SOIL compost, Konpos Lakay!
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Expanding the SOIL Cap-Haitien Composting Facility
Expanding the SOIL Cap-Haitien Composting Facility

SOIL transforms wastes into resources in Haiti through a process called Ecological Sanitation (EcoSan), simultaneously breaking the cycle of disease while completing the nutrient cycle. We collect wastes from our dry household toilets, marketed as EkoLakay, which we then transform into completely safe, agricultural grade compost in a six to nine month process. With simple and locally appropriate technologies, we are able to tackle some of Haiti’s toughest challenges while also developing a social business model that will ultimately ensure financial sustainability as well as ecological sustainability.

At two waste treatment sites, SOIL currently treats over 20,000 gallons of human waste per month. With no other waste treatment options in the neighborhoods we service, it is sad to admit that without SOIL’s collection and treatment, all of this waste would end up polluting fresh water sources and sickening communities. Instead, it is transformed into a badly-needed resource that helps increase Haiti’s soil resiliency and food security!

Since SOIL was founded 2006, we have sold over 75,000 gallons of compost. Thanks in part to your support, in August, we were able to double our waste treatment capacity in Cap-Haitien in preparation for 1,000 additional household toilets, meaning that we will be producing more than 8,000 gallons a month of compost!

Marketing to the “Base of the Pyramid”

The increase in compost production has to be accompanied by an increase in sales if we are to successfully demonstrate the feasibility of social business scale-up. That’s why we’ve created a marketing and sales committee within SOIL that focuses on how to increase our customer base and keep them happy with top-notch services and products. To kickstart our marketing strategies, we met with Digicel, Haiti’s largest mobile service provider and one of the most successful businesses in the country.

We are looking for tips on how to access markets at the “base of the pyramid,” a business term for the most economically disadvantaged. We are working to develop a social business that generates enough income to provide jobs for otherwise unemployed people and while also ensuring that the people who need these goods and services the most are not priced out. We strongly believe that catalyzing local entrepreneurship and innovation is the first step in creating dignity, health, and sustainable livelihoods.

Ecological Sanitation: Increasing Access to Health and Resources

Recently SOIL has been increasing access to compost though an initiative called “Jaden Kay,” which means household garden. In this project, our agricultural team supports the development of demonstration gardens on the roofs of some SOIL EkoLakay toilet users. We provide a startup kit that includes an optimal mixture of soil and compost, as well as seeds and some repurposed containers or old tires to use as garden beds.

Our customers appreciate being able to experience the whole ecological sanitation (EcoSan) cycle in their house- they use their toilet, then SOIL collects their waste and safely transforms it into compost, which they then use to grow the food that they will eat, starting the cycle all over again.

Marline, a SOIL EkoLakay customer since 2012, has had a SOIL Jaden Kay for several months now. She told us, “I am very happy about getting this garden and getting this toilet, because everyone who comes here and goes to use the toilet always have a lot of questions about it. Some don’t even believe that this is possible. They are also very happy to see a garden on top of the roof, so some of them would like to get the same system in their house.”

Successful examples or urban gardening are crucial for supporting the grassroots movement that is necessary to reach food security in such a challenging context. Contributing compost to this effort makes SOIL proud.

Planning SOIL's marketing strategy
Planning SOIL's marketing strategy
SOIL's Konpos Lakay bagged for sale!
SOIL's Konpos Lakay bagged for sale!

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Monitoring the compost process
Monitoring the compost process

Ecological sanitation (EcoSan) is a process by which human wastes are converted into valuable compost. SOIL’s use of EcoSan simultaneously tackles some of Haiti’s toughest challenges by providing sanitation to people who would otherwise have no access to a toilet and producing an endless supply of rich, organic compost critical for agriculture and reforestation.

Since building Haiti’s first EcoSan toilet in 2006 and first waste treatment facility in 2009, SOIL has gone on to become one of the country’s most well-respected non-profit organizations. SOIL’s EcoSan waste treatment facilities (in Cap-Haitien and Port-au-Prince) now treat more than 20,000 gallons of human waste per month, providing a powerful example of how to affordably and effectively increase access to sustainable sanitation services worldwide.

Thanks to your early support of SOIL’s efforts to increase production of EcoSan compost in Haiti, over the past few months we’ve been working at expanding the waste treatment capacity at our composting facilities in Cap-Haitien and Port-au-Prince. And as we produce more and more compost each month we now have a wonderful problem of having to find out what to do with it!

Compost Sales Support Sustainable Sanitation

In order to get more compost into the hands of Haitian farmers, increase demand for ecological sanitation, and generate a sustainable source of income to support the scale-up of these sanitation solutions across the country, SOIL is actively working to spread awareness about the benefits of using compost in Haiti. An early win in this effort came in May 2013, when Brana and its parent company, Heineken, committed to purchasing $30,000 worth of SOIL’s EcoSan compost for distribution to Haitian farmers cultivating crops used in making Heineken beverages in Haiti. While Heineken’s Haitian Corporate Social Responsibility office was an exciting early adopter, we believe that more work needs to be done in order to support market demand for EcoSan compost in Haiti.  

In support of this goal, SOIL has recently been expanding agricultural experiments comparing EcoSan compost to other soil amendments at our research farms in Port-au-Prince and Limonade (outside of Cap-Haitien). Findings from these experiments are used to promote the benefits of compost use, train local farmers on how to increase their yields, and provide better instructions for the optimal use of SOIL compost with different crop varieties.

Early Impact Results

Given the baseline depleted quality of Haiti’s agricultural soil, EcoSan compost was shown to increase plant health and crop yields across species. In addition, initial findings from this project also demonstrate that there are significant economic benefits to applying EcoSan compost. For example, an analysis of sweet pepper cultivation that took into account the cost of the compost (at SOIL’s current price point) and the potential revenue increase generated by selling more peppers showed that applying SOIL compost could increase a farmer’s profits – by over $5,000 per hectare.

Stay Involved:

We hope that you will stay connected with our work in Haiti by joining SOIL on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Also, through May 10, 2014, all donations to SOIL will be matched $1 for $1. Help us meet the growing demand for SOIL’s sanitation services in Haiti!

Sorghum grown with and without SOIL compost
Sorghum grown with and without SOIL compost
A mischievous visitor at the SOIL farm
A mischievous visitor at the SOIL farm

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Organization Information

SOIL

Location: Sherburne, New York - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @SOILhaiti
Project Leader:
Leah Page
Sherburne, New York United States
$3,945 raised of $48,000 goal
 
94 donations
$44,055 to go
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