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 Health  Haiti Project #17164

Expanding Sustainable Sanitation in Haiti

by SOIL
Expanding Sustainable Sanitation in Haiti
Expanding Sustainable Sanitation in Haiti
Expanding Sustainable Sanitation in Haiti
Expanding Sustainable Sanitation in Haiti
Expanding Sustainable Sanitation in Haiti
Expanding Sustainable Sanitation in Haiti
Expanding Sustainable Sanitation in Haiti
Expanding Sustainable Sanitation in Haiti
Expanding Sustainable Sanitation in Haiti
Expanding Sustainable Sanitation in Haiti

Since 2013, SOIL’s Cap-Haïtien team has operated out of an office we built from the ground up on a beautiful piece of land just down the road from our composting waste treatment facilities. Over the past six years, this space has served as a wonderful home for SOIL’s work as we have implemented and refined our ecological sanitation service EkoLakay

Now, as we embark on a journey to expand the reach of EkoLakay, SOIL came to realize that it was time to say goodbye to our office in Limonade. Why? We determined that moving offices would allow us to improve efficiency, reduce operating costs, and help ensure we have the best infrastructure and systems in place for when our office is overseeing the provision of sanitation services for a rapidly growing number of families.

Bit by bit, different parts of our teams in Cap-Haïtien have transitioned out of our old office and into new locations. First, our composting team expanded infrastructure at our waste treatment facility in Mouchinette so that those responsible for managing the safe transformation of waste to compost could be fully based out of an office on the site. Last summer, we also broke ground on a new depot in a quiet neighborhood of Cap-Haïtien, Ti Lary, which became the home of EkoLakay’s field teams and management. That left SOIL’s Regional Director, Romel Toussaint, and our Finance and Administration department still working out of our old office in the interim.

After thoughtful consideration and a short search of the properties available in Cap-Haïtien, we quickly realized that the best solution for SOIL’s needs was actually right in front of us at Ti Lary! Since then, we have been hard at work building a space on the land in Ti Lary that could become a hub for all of SOIL’s needs outside of the composting site. Though the construction process was put on hold for part of February due to ongoing protests, we were able to finish building the new offices at the end of March. Now, SOIL’s Finance and Administration department officially moved in.

Since we are now able to consolidate EkoLakay with Finance and Administration, SOIL can save time and resources by reducing the need to move between two offices and the Administrative team can better provide swift support to EkoLakay. EkoLakay and SOIL’s administration are also able to share utility expenses, which is just one of the ways that this transition is setting SOIL up to save money in the long run. Finally, we are thrilled to have SOIL’s Regional Director back in closer proximity to the EkoLakay teams as they continue the operational transformation program our teams undertook last October.

Though we are early into our new office consolidation, we are already discovering new ways that this move will streamline administration and field work. In the weeks to come, we will work on revising finance systems and administrative roles to optimize efficiency across our teams and finalize a few more pieces of the construction project. Next up? Finishing the toilet building station and installing solar panels so that SOIL can be powered by nature as we work to restore it.

Check back in the coming months for more exciting updates from our teams as we continue to prepare our systems for a successful EkoLakay expansion. Until then, join SOIL’s teams in a little celebration as we settle into our new Cap-Haïtien home!

Links:

We talk a lot at SOIL about increasing access to sanitation in Haiti. We’re hard at work to expand our programs every day as we work to build a city-wide sanitation service in a country where 75% of people lack access to a toilet. But what does it mean to build a service that’s truly accessible?

As we work to expand our EkoLakay service into new homes and new neighborhoods in the years to come, we’re also thinking about expanding access in a different way. For people with different levels of physical ability, making your way to a room far from your bed to use the restroom can be a huge challenge. With that in mind, SOIL designed a toilet that could be portable, so that people like Jean Nelson, who has a physical disability constraining his mobility, are able to install it directly in their bedroom. Jean Nelson told us that this is one of the primary reasons that he decided to join SOIL’s service in Port-au-Prince. Our weekly collection service helps, too. Every week a SOIL team member passes by each and every house to collect full containers of waste and provide clean containers of carbon cover material, making maintenance easier for clients of all abilities.

The design of SOIL’s household toilets and maintenance service has undergone an iterative process throughout the years. By working closely and intentionally alongside members of the communities we serve, SOIL is proud to have designed a sanitation solution that meets the needs of our customers and is more accessible to people with disabilities than traditional systems. And we’re not done! We continue to partner with both local communities and sanitation researchers across the world to gather feedback and adapt our model to make it the best it can be.

Follow this link to read about SOIL’s ambitious plans for the years to come and don’t miss our latest annual report here.

We’re writing you from Haiti, where SOIL’s waste collection teams have been out in our communities despite protests and strikes disrupting movement throughout cities across the country. SOIL’s sanitation heroes are committed to providing access to life-saving sanitation services – rain or shine. And today, with services around the country on hold, EkoLakay continues to operate so that families have uninterrupted access to their toilets.

Each day we see firsthand the urgent necessity of toilets in the communities we serve, and in the world at large. For the fifth annual World Toilet Day, we pause to celebrate the tireless work of practitioners and communities around the world who are expanding sanitation access. And,  as we do every World Toilet Day, take a moment to appreciate our toilets, too! We love our earth-restoring household EkoLakay toilets – here’s why:

1. Toilets are essential to public health and thriving communities.

Whether or not we think about it on a regular basis, we all need access to safe sanitation.

Exposure to untreated and poorly managed waste has a devastating impact upon public health, and the magnitude of the sanitation crisis is extreme: today, 4.5 billion people lack access to a toilet that safely manages their waste. In Haiti, a country where just 1% of all waste is safely treated, the lack of access to full-cycle sanitation means far too many people die of preventable waterborne illness. In fact, Haiti has the highest incidence of childhood diarrhea in the world.

We love our toilets for removing tons of waste from communities, and thereby protecting families, communities, and local waterways by reducing the burden of untreated waste in densely populated areas.

2. Household toilets help ensure safety for families, especially women and girls.

The burden of not having access to a toilet falls most heavily on women, who are often the primary caretakers of family members who fall ill and who are more vulnerable to the risks associated with having to leave the home in search of a safe place to go. Having access to a private, household toilet not only means that women and girls have a safe place to use the bathroom and manage menstruation, it also means they no longer have to rely on a public or shared option outside the home.

Did you know that 97% of families with a SOIL toilet in their home report that their family’s personal security has increased since joining the service?

3. Full-cycle sanitation systems dramatically reduce environmental contamination.

Around the world, more than 80% of wastewater returns to the environment without being treated. Toilets that ensure 100% waste treatment, like SOIL’s in Haiti, reduce environmental damage by preventing the contamination of aquatic ecosystems and ground water sources. SOIL’s sanitation system was designed to work in harmony with nature, and by removing untreated waste from urban communities and ensuring safe and complete treatment, that’s just what it does.

4. The nutrients in human waste present an enormous opportunity to grow resilience to natural disasters and climate change.

It’s clear that having access to improved sanitation is critically important for human and planetary health and well-being, but that’s not the only reason why SOIL loves our toilets. On first glance, a household toilet may seem like an unlikely source for a solution to the climate crisis, but we see the nutrients in human waste as a tremendous opportunity for transformative change. Instead of taking a linear approach and disposing waste once it’s been fully treated, SOIL has built a circular system that captures the nutrients within the waste and returns them to the soil in the form of lush, agricultural-grade compost.

The benefits of taking a nature-based approach? Pretty remarkable.

What does your toilet mean to you? Help us celebrate World Toilet Day by letting us know in the comments below or join us in conversation online @SOILHaiti.

SOIL’s tenacity and rigorous commitment to building and sustaining truly transformative and sustainable sanitation solutions are only possible because of the generous support of our individual donors, who keep SOIL running through all the ups and downs of working in Haiti.

Since 2006, SOIL has worked tirelessly to bring our holistic ecological sanitation solution to life in Haiti. Thanks to the support of our friends and partners, we are demonstrating that it’s possible to provide safe, dignified and affordable sanitation services to resource poor urban communities. 

Increased Access, Improved Safety

By offering families household toilets, which provide a sense of pride as well as increased safety and security, SOIL is working to combat gender-based violence.

One in three women between the ages of 15 and 49 have experienced physical or sexual violence and finding ways to mitigate and prevent gender-based and intimate partner violence is critical. Though it’s something that those of use who grew up in communities with household sanitation take for granted, the connection between gender-based violence and a lack of access to safe sanitation is well-documented globally.

Not having access to an in-home toilet means having to leave the house and often travel at considerable lengths to reach sanitation facilities, something that can be particularly dangerous for women and girls. Having a toilet at home ensures that women have a private, safe space to use the toilet and manage menstruation, but it also increases safety from violence as people no longer have to rely on using a shared or public option outside of the home.

In 2012, SOIL and our partners at Re.Source Sanitation conducted a survey on sanitation coverage in Haiti’s second largest city, Cap-Haitien. What we found was that that prior to having an EkoLakay toilet installed, 30 percent of participants reported that they felt safe from physical or sexual assault when using their primary sanitation option. After becoming EkoLakay users, that increased to 91 percent of respondents sharing that they felt safe from physical or sexual violence. Last summer, a survey of SOIL’s EkoLakay clients in Haiti’s capital city of Port-au-Prince found that an astonishing 97 percent of customers felt that their quality of life in terms of security had improved after signing up for the service.

Meet Izidor

Izidor, an EkoLakay client with five young children living in the Shada neighborhood of Cap-Haitien, reported feeling significantly safer now that she and her children do not have to go outside to relieve themselves during the night: “Pandan lanwit mwen te ka gon bezwen epi se deyò mal fè l. Kounye a ak eko lavi m sekirize anpil nan sans sa, “During the night whenever I had to go, I had to go outside. Now with [EkoLakay] I have a greater sense of security in my life.”

Let’s call it the “fill your container challenge,” (which, let me assure you, is quite different from the ice bucket challenge. You would not want to dump these containers over your head). Over the past two months, 16 of SOIL’s EkoLakay sales staff were competing as a part of two teams to see who could install the most toilets in Cap Haitien.

The goal we set out to achieve during the competition was 42 newly installed EkoLakay toilets in both March and April, which is an installation rate more than 100% higher than last quarter’s average rate of 20 toilets per month.

Each person on the sales team received a bonus of 100 Haitian Gourdes for every new signed contract they secured. For Axilus, this meant a bonus of 1700 gourdes, or about $25 USD. Axilus told us that he alone was able to sign 17 new families onto the service by speaking with his friends and family members who didn’t have a toilet in their home and explaining to them how an EkoLakay toilet would improve their health and safety, all the while protecting the environment. For SOIL, each family that signs a contract to join our sanitation service means that we are delivering more social and environmental impact, which is our ultimate goal.

How did it go? The Fort St. Michel team won the challenge with 57 new installations, followed by Avyasyon’s 42. All in all, this puts us at 99 new families that now have a safe, dignified in-home toilet as a result of the competition. That’s a win for team SOIL!

Though there is no challenge planned for May, but we do have some other tricks up our sleeve as we continue to work to increase installations and, in turn, access to lifesaving sanitation. The mobile payment service that EkoLakay uses, MonCash, has generously offered SOIL swag in the form of water bottles and T-shirts, which we will use to incentivize clients to sign up for the EkoLakay service and pay with MonCash. Though there has been hesitation to joining EkoLakay’s service over the past quarter as a result of our new mobile payment requirement, early analysis has shown that customers who successfully adopt MonCash actually pay more consistently and we have faith that the technology will catch on. Check back to the blog next month to learn more about how it’s going!

There will be more incentives for the sales team in the future because they love bonuses, SOIL loves impact, and our customers love their container-based toilets. We may not spend every month taking photos of ourselves filling up poop containers for fun, but, rest assured, we will continue to install toilet after toilet until we’ve created a city-wide sanitation service.

 

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Organization Information

SOIL

Location: Sherburne, New York - USA
Website:
Project Leader:
Leah Page
Sherburne, New York United States

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