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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

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.

Stakeholder Engagement at SOIL!
Stakeholder Engagement at SOIL!

Here at SOIL we believe that part of why we have had the successes that we have in a country where too many projects struggle to deliver is, in part, due to our commitment to intentional collaboration.

SOIL is committed to working alongside global experts, local communities, and national stakeholders to develop solutions to one of the world’s most challenging crises. Whether it’s through the Container-Based Sanitation Alliance, or with the Haitian government, we know that pooling expertise to coordinate efforts, improve implementation, and support knowledge-sharing is the key to future success.

Building a Durable Sanitation System

In September, three SOIL staff traveled to London for a workshop organized by the World Health Organization (WHO) for members of the Container-Based Alliance and their government counterparts. This workshop prepared SOIL’s team for developing our own Sanitation Safety Plans (SSP) for both our sanitation service, EkoLakay, and our waste treatment operations.

Our team has been hard at work to develop SOIL’s SSP, but we knew we couldn’t stop there because implementing this methodology requires going beyond internal evaluation and necessitates collaboration with local authorities as well. So, late last fall, under the thatch roof of SOIL’s Rural Training Center, that’s just what SOIL’s team did when we gathered representatives of the Haitian government’s cholera response team, the Ministry of the Environment, independent water and sanitation experts, and university students (among others) for a two-day Sanitation Safety Planning workshop.

The workshop included training on risk identification and control prioritization, as well as field visits to observe SOIL’s operations in Northern Haiti. With the SSP framework in mind, participants worked together on a series of exercises to identify public health risks throughout SOIL’s entire service chain, assign potential control mechanisms, and rank risks in order to properly prioritize action steps.

Throughout these exercises, participants drew connections between risks in SOIL’s operations and risks in other sanitation models throughout Haiti, from the dangers faced by the bayakou (manual latrine emptiers) to the risks inherent to the septic systems and latrines built in flood zones. These conversations led to convictions to take action through advocacy in government offices and in the community at large. To our delight, this also led to a growing appreciation for SOIL’s dignified, durable, and disaster-resilient model.

More than we could have imagined, this diverse group of participants brought unique expertise, energy, and creativity to the table and the results were inspiring! Beyond developing actionable takeaways to improve safety within SOIL’s operations, we were able to bring together a team of powerful stakeholders that cultivated ideas for their long-term action and engagement.

Late in the evening on the last day of the workshop, long after it had been intended to have finished, participants were making commitments to action and future roles within in the new SSP teams. People lingered to make plans to stay in touch, and of course take a few pictures to document the new connections made.

What’s Next for the SSP Team?

Moving forward, SOIL will continue to lead the SSP team through regular meetings and follow-up on individual commitments to action. In the months ahead, SOIL will continue to map risks and develop control measures within our daily operations and integrate proposals based on the workshop.

We are looking forward to coming together again to ensure we’re building the most durable and safe sanitation system that we possibly can – and to an even happier, healthier 2018.

Happy Customers, Happy SOIL!
Happy Customers, Happy SOIL!

So far this year, EkoLakay has carried out two comprehensive satisfaction surveys in order to gather quantitative and qualitative feedback on the household toilet service. We were pleased to see that customers overwhelmingly reported improved safety, health, and affordability. Despite very high overall satisfaction levels in both customer surveys in both Port-au-Prince and Cap-Haitien, a few customers in Port-au-Prince did note some issues with EkoLakay’s cover material, bonzodè, which led us to look into the production protocol.

Optimizing Production Protocols

The Port-au-Prince EkoLakay team took this feedback seriously and immediately began identifying how we could improve and optimize bonzodè production. The main complaints we received were that the bonzodè was arriving damp, which occasionally had caused it to smell bad or encourage flies. As the “flushing” material for our dry toilets, bonzodè should perform the opposite effect so we knew this was a serious issue to resolve. 

The team sat down and tweaked the protocol to guarantee that the bonzodè arriving at customers’ houses would be dry and pleasant-smelling. They achieved this by making the production schedule such that a bucket of bonzodè will never be sealed for more than 30 minutes before arriving in front of a customer as well as limiting the amount of time bonzodè is in storage.

A couple months after our initial satisfaction survey, we circled back to the 29 customers who had expressed dissatisfaction with bonzodè to thank them for their helpful feedback and to ask if they had seen improvements. We were relieved when all but one of those customers reported that the quality of bonzodè had improved in the past months, most saying that the bonzodè is now always dry. Now, 90% of the customers who were previously dissatisfied have reported that the quality of the bonzodè is “good” or “excellent.”

Happy Customers, Happy SOIL

Using data-based feedback to improve our operations and follow-up with clients was an exercise in how to effectively weave strong customer service into the very fabric of the EkoLakay service. As the extremely positive results of the recent Cap-Haitien satisfaction survey demonstrate, happy customers make loyal customers who will encourage their neighbors to sign up for EkoLakay.  

Plus, we just love that fuzzy feeling of a satisfied client!

SOIL just wrapped up its fiscal year last month and we ended on a high note with 73 EkoLakay toilet installations in July alone. That’s more toilets than we had previously installed during any month this year!

The majority of these new customers live in two densely populated urban areas in Cap-Haitien: Nan Bannann, a relatively new service area for EkoLakay, and Fort Saint Michel, a nearby neighborhood where SOIL has been working for several years. We don’t have precise data on sanitation coverage in these neighborhoods, but local community-based organizations estimate that over 80% of people don’t have access to a toilet.

Alexandra, a new EkoLakay customer in Cap-Haitien.

As our team installed the new toilets, we had a chance to get to know the families that are beginning to use EkoLakay’s service. What did we learn? Unfortunately, though not surprisingly,  that figure that local organizations report for access to improved sanitation in these neighborhoods in Cap-Haitien (80%) turned out to overestimate the previous sanitation coverage for the new EkoLakay customers. Though it’s not necessarily representative of the neighborhood at large, of the 72 households that joined in July, an alarming 88% of people reported that they hadn’t had access to a toilet before EkoLakay. In these neighborhoods, 80% of the families that now have an EkoLakay composting toilet in their home lack access to running water.

This looks a little different in the slightly more affluent neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Ti Plas Kazo, where we also installed toilets in July. In a recent satisfaction survey, EkoLakay customers in this neighborhood reported that what they liked most about their EkoLakay toilet was that they are able to save money. For them, this was possible because they no longer need to buy the water that was necessary to flush their old toilets, nor do they need to pay for waste removal by Haiti’s underground latrine cleaners.

For community members of Nan Bannann and Fort Saint Michel, however, beginning to use EkoLakay’s service costs 200 Haitian gourdes (just over 3 USD) that they hadn’t previously had to pay each month because they didn’t have a toilet to flush, period. Without an in-home toilet, families were forced to go in a bag (a “flying toilet”) or use a nearby ravine or empty lot, often in the early hours of dawn when some discretion was possible. That waste contaminated the environment, including the groundwater that people use for bathing, washing, and cooking food. Now, not only will safety risks for these families be mitigated, the resources of that waste will go back to the earth as safe and organic compost.

While saving money is not the motivation for these urban Cap-Haitien residents to sign up for EkoLakay, there are many other reasons why they are willing to pay for sanitation in this precarious context. Almost a quarter of the new customers in Nan Bannann and Fort Saint Michel shared that they joined to protect their families. Alexandra, pictured above, is one of our new customers. After having an EkoLakay toilet in her home for just over a month now, she is excited to share that “EkoLakay is helping my family! We didn’t have any other options before, and we love the service.”

Families like Alexandra’s who are willing to make the sacrifice to pay for EkoLakay each month are testaments to the transformative power of access to a dignified, safe in-home toilet. SOIL is currently carrying out extensive research in our Cap-Haitien service areas, where we hope we will gain more insight into what else motivates families to sign up for EkoLakay, as well as how we can continue to grow the feelings of pride that come with making a positive impact for one’s family and one’s entire community.

We’re using the momentum of our record-breaking July to start our new year off strong. If you hadn’t heard the news, in addition to trying to beat our July installation record, we’re busy building on to our composting site in Cap-Haitien to increase our capacity to treat and transform the waste from these new EkoLakay toilets. Here’s to continuing to expand access to sanitation and to even more EkoLakay installations next month!

To support SOIL’s work to provide EkoLakay toilets so that families like Alexandra’s have access to safe and dignified sanitation, please consider making a donation today.

We often ask our visitors to guest write a blog post for the SOIL website to give our readers a chance to see how SOIL’s work looks from different perspectives. After spending a day dumping poop buckets, recent SOIL visitor, Benjamin, had a lot to say about the concept of waste!

I visited Haiti for the first time this spring and I am just beginning to get my feet wet in the ocean of complex issues that the country faces. Therefore getting a chance to stop by SOIL and see their work in action was a fascinating experience! I spent the first morning of my SOIL visit volunteering at SOIL’s composting waste treatment facility near Cap-Haitien. I began by helping the workers to dump five-gallon buckets of poop into large containers where the waste will be sealed and allowed to undergo anaerobic decomposition in order to kill dangerous microbes and begin to break down the materials. Next we loaded the hundreds of buckets onto a cart and wheeled them over to be cleaned and dried in the sun. This process took the entire morning due to the sheer volume of waste that must be processed every day.

I was initially surprised and impressed by the vastness of SOIL’s facility, boasting mountains of compost in various stages. SOIL is creating value from a remarkably large amount of waste, but the reality is that Haiti is home to over 10.6 million people and Haiti does not have a central sanitation system. By even just serving a mere fraction of the population in Cap-Haitien, SOIL is already removing an enormous amount of waste that would otherwise pollute the water supply and pose a health hazard, and instead, transforming it into nutritious earth. Human waste can either be a valuable resource that promotes agriculture, reforestation, and health, or, it can be a malignant affliction, endangering public health.

Unfortunately, the issue of waste in Haiti—and the world—is far more expansive than just human waste. Waste seems inevitable in most everything we do, and this reality was clearly evident upon my arrival here. The shores of the sea and the ditches alongside roads seem to be designated landfills. The undeniably conspicuous trash presence serves as a potent and tangible reminder of the work that always remains to be done in all fields of waste reduction, management, and transformation.

How we perceive waste is dependent upon our mindsets. For some, waste is the end of the road, an unsavory byproduct of life. For others, it is a new beginning, a valuable opportunity to promote and foster growth, independence, and 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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