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

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.

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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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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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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.

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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!

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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
$51,118 raised of $75,000 goal
 
525 donations
$23,882 to go
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