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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
EkoLakay customers in Cap-Haitien, Haiti
EkoLakay customers in Cap-Haitien, Haiti

People in Haiti want sanitation options that keep the water clean and replenish the soil. Even though ecological sanitation (EcoSan) is a new technology to most, people in the neighborhoods where we work are quick to catch on and see all of the benefits, both on a personal and societal level.

We now have over 500 household toilets in Haiti, and that’s only our household toilet program - known as EkoLakay. We also have EkoMobil, our mobile toilet service, and our agriculture, research, and consultancy programs. And we continue to expand our services. In fact we have been growing by about 45 new paying EkoLakay customers per month, while we lose about 5 clients per month. Development practitioners in Haiti are shocked by this rate of growth and by our high rates of payment and retention.

However Emmanuel Antoine, SOIL’s Sanitation Director, is not suprised. He says, “These communities were thirsty for proper sanitation. I feel proud that I work for SOIL because we take a problem and turn it into a solution.” 

Every SOIL toilet keeps dangerous wastes out of the waterways and transforms it into a rich natural resource that is critical for reforestation and agriculture. We are all proud of this work and we hope that you are proud to support us. 

A family signs up for the EkoLakay service
A family signs up for the EkoLakay service

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A SOIL EkoLakay toilet
A SOIL EkoLakay toilet

In Port-au-Prince, Haiti, SOIL’s pilot project for the dry household toilets known as “EkoLakay” is off to a terrific start. Our team is looking professional and proud in new spring green uniforms, our operations are becoming more efficient by the day, and our early adopters (the very first customers to sign up for EkoLakay) have been giving dazzling reviews.

One customer, Bertony, said, “Nou gen yon pakèt resous nou gaspiye an Ayiti. Ak twalèt sa nou ka chanje sistèm nan,” which translates to: “We have many many resources in Haiti that are wasted. With this toilet, we can change the system.”

Similar sentiments were echoed elsewhere on a client checkup that we did last week in the Port-au-Prince neighborhood where EkoLakay is just now being introduced. We were also delightfully surprised to see that some new customers are actually choosing to close or remove flush toilets in their homes in favor of SOIL’s toilets. Flush toilets are problemmatic in Haiti because there is often not running water in the toilet tank and there is rarely waste treatment for what gets flushed. But we find it very encouraging that even people who can afford a flush toilet choose a SOIL toilet because they see the environmental and social benefits of using a dry toilet, where the “waste” can be captured and transformed into compost.

To be honest, we had been operating under the assumption that the environmental impact is not ultimately what motivates customers to change their behavior in the bathroom. After speaking with EkoLakay’s early adopters in Port-au-Prince, it looks like we may have been wrong on that one! These kinds of insights can teach us a lot about marketing and behavioral change, two critical components to our social business development. In a country where less than 20% of people have access to safe toilets and there is minimal waste treatment, we are thrilled that individuals are motivated to seek out solutions that benefit themselves and their communities.

We are so proud of our team, our clients, and beneficiaries, and our donors for being brave enough to engage with an issue that is normally taboo. We can’t wait for the day that everyone has access to a safe toilet! Thank you so much for your support in this endeavor.

Potential customers inspect a SOIL toilet
Potential customers inspect a SOIL toilet
SOIL
SOIL's Sasha Kramer helping collect poo buckets!

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Women carpenters construct SOIL toilets
Women carpenters construct SOIL toilets

SOIL has been working in Haiti to research and develop sustainable sanitation solutions that provide livelihoods opportunities in the private sector. For example, our EkoLakay household toilet program is a social business pilot that is testing a revolutionary new way to sustainably provide affordable, dignified sanitation services. In this program, a family pays approximately $5 per month to rent their toilet, and this fee covers maintenance and biweekly waste collection. After collecting the buckets and providing clean ones in return, SOIL takes the toilet waste to a treatment site to safely transform it into rich, organic compost. This compost is then used to rebuild Haiti's soil and support reforestation and agriculture. 

The EkoLakay program currently has 296 paid toilets serving 2,225 people. However, with your support we are excited to be scaling up with a goal of reaching at least 7,500 people over the coming year. Along this journey to scale-up, we will continue to research opportunities to create local jobs along the sanitation value chain. We are currently experimenting with neighborhood collection points that will help us reduce transportation costs and provide income for a local EkoLakay manager or franchise owner. We are still working on this pilot, so stay tuned!

In another effort to support the local economy, we have also decided to hand over toilet construction to local entrepreneurs. We have trained local carpenters to make EkoLakay toilets, and each time we expand the EkoLakay business we place a request for bids with these local carpentars who then construct a given number of toilets that SOIL then purchases. Our parameters are that the toilets must be able to fit a waste collection bucket inside, have space for urine diversion, and be constructed for less than $50 per unit.  

A local women's collective has taken on the challenge and won several big bids with SOIL. We bought ferro-cement toilets from them and we are happy with the product. An exciting byproduct of collaborating with local carpenters is that they have innovative ideas to change the technology in ways that we never thought of before. They've come up with improvements that our customers like even better than the original design. Katy, one of these carpenters, says that she has enjoyed expanding her technical skills during training the SOIL team. 

SOIL is proud to be providing jobs to 70 staff members and contracting with local independent carpenters. As our EkoLakay household toilet program expands, we will be generating even more independent livelihood opportunities so that Haiti will be on a path to create hundreds of new jobs and achieve 100% access to sanitation, decreasing the country's dependence on foreign aid while boosting the economy and increasing health and agricultural productivity. It's a big goal, but we believe it's possible. Thank you for your support!

Katy works on a SOIL EkoLakay toilet
Katy works on a SOIL EkoLakay toilet
Building eco toilets in Haiti
Building eco toilets in Haiti

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Checking out an EkoMobil toilet
Checking out an EkoMobil toilet

SOIL is working to transform conditions in Haiti with both short-term projects that address critical needs and a long-term strategy to expand sanitation access through social business models. One of SOIL's sanitation social businesses, EkoMobil, is playing an important role in promoting the use of ecological sanitation systems in Haiti while also providing SOIL with critical revenue for supporting ongoing projects.

Starting in 2010, aid groups began to donate used porta-potties to SOIL, remnants of attempts to provide sanitation in post-earthquake Haiti. The problems with porta-potties are manifold: they are not a sustainable, ecological nor, arguably, dignified way for people to access a toilet. They are also expensive to construct, import, and maintain. For these reasons we find great pleasure in tearing apart porta-potties at SOIL. We turn them into “EkoMobil” composting toilets that are used at festivals and rented by churches, schools, and individuals around Haiti.

Unlike a porta-potty, SOIL's EkoMobil toilets do not stink or pollute the environment. The finished product is not “waste” that has to be disposed of somewhere, but a resource that provides compost where it is badly needed. And throughout the process, SOIL is happily creating livelihood opportunities to Haitians in the sanitation sector in jobs that are increasingly valorized, not stigmatized.

Impact

EkoMobil rentals have generated as much as $2,000 in a single month. This revenue helps support SOIL’s humanitarian relief and research efforts.

EkoMobil toilets also serve the very important function of helping us advertise the many benefits of EcoSan toilets to a wider audience. Overtime we expect this to increase demand for our EkoLakay household toilets and other social business services in Haiti - helping us achieve our ultimate goal of increasing sanitation access nationally.

SOIL’s initiative has the potential to vastly expand sanitation access in an affordable, sustainable way, while creating new jobs and livelihoods. Its model not only prevents further harm to the environment, it actively restores soil health through compost generation – reducing food insecurity, erosion, mudslides, and flooding in the process. SOIL strives to inspire a shift to a more ecological and equitable sanitation solution globally while working every day to increase national access to sanitation in Haiti.” – Jon Hera, The Globe and Mail, November 14, 2014.

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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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