Expanding Climate-Positive Sanitation in Haiti

by SOIL
Expanding Climate-Positive Sanitation in Haiti
Expanding Climate-Positive Sanitation in Haiti
Expanding Climate-Positive Sanitation in Haiti
Expanding Climate-Positive Sanitation in Haiti
Expanding Climate-Positive Sanitation in Haiti
Expanding Climate-Positive Sanitation in Haiti
Expanding Climate-Positive Sanitation in Haiti
Expanding Climate-Positive Sanitation in Haiti
Expanding Climate-Positive Sanitation in Haiti
Expanding Climate-Positive Sanitation in Haiti
Expanding Climate-Positive Sanitation in Haiti
Expanding Climate-Positive Sanitation in Haiti

In Haiti, Kanaval is a profoundly significant event that features music, food, and lots of dancing. This vibrant event lasts multiple days with people celebrating freely in the streets with masks, floats, and costumes, that reflect Haiti’s rich and beautiful culture. But, even in the midst of Haiti’s biggest party, SOIL was focusing on sanitation! SOIL was proud to be a part of the festivities by providing essential sanitation services in partnership with local authorities and businesses.

Just in time for Kanaval, SOIL rolled out our brand-new mobile toilet container, developed in partnership with the Center for Disease Control (CDC), to ensure that public access to sanitation would be available for the event. SOIL’s toilets did not fail to deliver their usual optimum quality of service and use. The toilets were orderly, well ventilated, smelling sweetly of our beloved “bonzodé” cover material, and fully equipped with hand-washing stations and toilet mangers to ensure that users were both comfortable and treating the toilets with the necessary respect. It was ultimately decided (by our personal panel of judges) that SOIL’s toilets took an indisputable first place in attention to detail, comfort of use, public health safety and environmental accountability!

SOIL’s mobile toilets, similar to our household toilets, use ecological sanitation to process waste and produce compost, ensuring safe management and treatment of waste. The toilets are much better for the environment than traditional port-a-potties, which use harsh chemicals, and are not emptied in safe waste treatment facilities in Haiti. In about six months from now, we can anticipate a fresh batch of Kanaval 2022 compost that’ll help support agriculture in Haiti!

We’re happy that SOIL was able to play a part in this year’s Kanaval celebrations which brought a well-deserved moment of peace, respite and happiness to Cap-Haitien with the help of local partners. In the coming year, SOIL plans to continue to work with local partners and authorities to ensure that safely managed sanitation continues to be provided during public events to support healthy communities.  

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At SOIL we’re growing a sanitation service in urban Haiti that is setting a global example for how to affordably and sustainably provide safely managed sanitation in rapidly growing urban communities. In Haiti, over 70% of the population lacks access to improved sanitation and only 1% of all waste is safely treated. This phenomenon is not exclusive to Haiti however, as over 4.5 billion people across the globe lack access to improved sanitation facilities.

While SOIL’s contribution to mitigating this problem sometimes feels like a drop in the ocean in the context of this staggering data, the fact still remains that approximately 9,000 Haitians are currently benefiting from SOIL’s household sanitation services. Now more than ever it is critical to identify innovative technological solutions and services to meet the sanitation needs of the world’s most vulnerable populations. 

What is Improved Sanitation? 

According to the CDC, basic sanitation is described as “having access to facilities for the safe disposal of human waste, as well as having the ability to maintain hygienic conditions, through services such as garbage collection, industrial/hazardous waste management, and wastewater treatment and disposal.” The distinction of improved sanitation facilities refers to technologies such as flush (or pour-flush) toilets to sewer pipes, septic tanks or pit latrines, ventilated improved pit latrines, composting toilets, and container-based toilets where waste is safely collected and treated. Access to improved, safe, and reliable sanitation services plays a critical role in advancing human rights, promoting equality and achieving sustainable development goals.

Disparities in Sanitation Access

One of the greatest barriers in accessing sanitation services, especially in low and middle-income countries is affordability. However, there are numerous factors that affect one’s ability to access sanitation services, including socioeconomic status, sex, gender, disability, health, geographic location and livelihood status.

The lack of access to sanitation services can be devastating for marginalized communities, further exacerbating pre-existing disparities. For example, due to the fact that many schools in Haiti, and elsewhere in developing countries, lack safe, private places for students to go to the bathroom, many girls miss school during menstruation, disrupting their educational development and further limiting their livelihood opportunities. Additionally, in some countries, indigenous peoples and religious minorities lack access to safe water and sanitation in disproportionate numbers. Meanwhile, universally, people with disabilities lack access to adequate sanitation services,  “as public water and sanitation facilities are often not designed to meet their needs.”

Inclusive Sanitation as a Human Right

At SOIL, we believe access to a toilet and a safe, healthy environment are basic human rights, and we are collectively working as hard as we can to create a world where these basic human rights are ensured for everybody.

To tackle the global sanitation crisis also means tackling systemic inequalities and, forms of discrimination that perpetuate disparities and prevent access to basic human rights, like sanitation. We know that it’s going to take innovative solutions to do this and a one-size-fits-all solution to the global sanitation crisis is not practical. We’re proud to be able to work in Haiti to build a model for expanding access to sanitation that meets the needs of marginalized and vulnerable communities. And, we are thankful to have a community of supporters that are able to advocate globally for a more equitable future.      

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SOIL's public toilets in Cap-Haitien market
SOIL's public toilets in Cap-Haitien market

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 (SOIL's toilet) 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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We at SOIL are always working to develop innovative approaches to support our growth strategy and further expand our reach to provide accessible, sustainable and reliable sanitation to those that need it the most. Research plays a critical role in SOIL’s efforts to achieve strategic goals and advance knowledge in the sanitation sector. This year has started off very busy for SOIL’s Research team, as we are working on a number of ongoing research projects including; small-scale black soldier fly larvae experiments, improving collections with human-centered design and utilizing aeration to make the waste-to-compost process more efficient. We’re pleased to introduce our latest research project: windrow composting!          

One of our goals this year is to make the composting process faster, so that we can treat and transform more waste in order to accommodate more customers and growth. However, finding land for waste treatment is difficult, so as much as possible we want to grow within our existing site. This means we need to be able to treat more waste in the same space we currently use, so we have to get creative! In order to do so, the SOIL team is testing different composting methods that could potentially transform waste into compost faster, thereby increasing the rate of turnover. Windrow composting involves emptying containers into a pile on the ground (and elongating it into a row), as an alternative to the bins we currently use for composting. Then, the pile must be turned at least once a week to increase aeration and decomposition. Improving the efficiency of the composting process will help us to accommodate more waste and help us decrease operational costs, moving us closer to a financially sustainable business model!

In collaboration (and solidarity) with the Operations and Research teams, SOIL’s Human Resources Director, Wisner and Director of Operations, Djimitri, partook in the experiment and helped empty 500 containers! The waste treatment team at our composting site in Mouchinette really appreciate when managers and other SOIL employees come to the site, because they are proud of their work and how much physical strength it requires. Knowing that the managers value their work is always a great moral booster and makes for a happy and efficient operational team!

The team will continue to monitor the pile daily and turn it following a specific schedule, designed to maximize aeration at the beginning of the process, when the microbes require the most oxygen to work. We’re hoping to bring the managers and office teams to the compost site more often to take part in operations as part of an exercise to increase understanding of SOIL’s work across teams and build up enhanced collaboration throughout the organization. Stay tuned for more updates on our compost research!

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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.

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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
$54,630 raised of $75,000 goal
 
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