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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

Whether it’s using mobile tools to inform marketing or evaluating the optimal design of a compost bin, innovation is at the heart of everything that SOIL does as we provide our regenerative sanitation service in Haiti.

The Challenge

One of the biggest challenges we face in operating SOIL’s EkoLakay sanitation service is logistics and the costs of transportation. EkoLakay’s collection crew visits the houses of families on our household toilet service every week, collecting full containers of waste and leaving clean empty containers and cover material for next week’s waste collection. Our drivers face challenging and ever-changing road conditions as SOIL serves rapidly-growing informal communities. Beyond that, we have found that our vehicles aren’t always used at full capacity. Given these factors, it should be no surprise that transportation is actually one of EkoLakay’s largest cost drivers.

To help us improve our service and reduce our costs, we have been working with DataKind to assess SOIL’s vehicle capacity and collection routes to design the best way to use vehicle, collector, GPS, and GIS map data to tackle this challenge. DataKind is a global nonprofit that harnesses the power of data science and AI in the service of humanity, in a partnership funded by the 11th Hour Project.

Questions to Answer

How long does it take to get to each house and what’s the most efficient path between them? Is there one SOIL service zone that might work better broken down into two, or should we be combining two zones that we current service separately? What’s the fewest number of trips needed to service all of our customers when the number of containers might vary from house to house? Our team of researchers and data scientists have been asking these questions and building an open-source software that incorporates data like vehicle cost per mile and carrying capacity to calculate the best route. Once that’s done? It’s transformed into a map that our EkoLakay team members can follow as they head out for the day.

Beyond having an immediate payoff by helping us reduce costs and fuel use, we know that making these improvements to collection routes is essential as SOIL sets out to provide the service at a larger scale in the coming years. Every time a new family signs up to have a lifesaving SOIL toilet installed in their home, we have to quickly update our routes to adjust for the change. Given that we want to grow our service quickly over the coming years, we know we need to get this right!

Early Updates

After spending much of the winter gathering data, testing assumptions, and defining the desired outcomes, it’s been exciting to see the fruits of the team’s labor. Every few weeks, the DataKind team has sent updates of city, zone, and route-specific maps that we’re able to review and refine to help improve the way the model works. With just a few weeks left in our project, the DataKind team is putting the finishing touches on the model and preparing training materials to hand it over to SOIL.

Driving Forward

While the DataKind team’s work is nearing completion, SOIL’s work on the model continues. We’ll spend this summer testing routes, training waste collectors on using the maps to navigate ever-evolving collection routes, and adjusting some of our logistics protocols to prepare for fully implementing the new tools. Many thanks to our friends at 11thHour and DataKind (including the awesome volunteer team!) who have helped to make this route optimization possible in urban Haiti.

We never stop dreaming of ways to go further and we are already getting excited about the ways that this will vastly improve the efficiency of our EkoLakay service. We look forward to keeping SOIL’s blog readers updated as we make progress!

Links:

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.”

 

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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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