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 Health  Haiti Project #17164

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

With more than four billion people still lacking access to safe sanitation globally, we know that it’s going to take a multitude of innovative solutions to successfully tackle a crisis of this proportion. Citywide Inclusive Sanitation–the idea that a variety of alternatives to traditional sewer systems will be needed to “genuinely deliver universal coverage across whole urban areas” – has been gaining strong momentum in recent years.

This notion that a one-size-fits-all solution to the global sanitation crisis is not realistic means that municipalities need comparative data on all sanitation solutions so that they can make the best choices for expanding access to safe sanitation in their local context. But, for so long, this data has been inaccessible, incomplete, and challenging to compare. It is essential that decision makers can assess how the safety and cost of container-based toilets like SOIL’s compare to pit latrines or a flush toilets. These factors can vary dramatically in different contexts, though. For example, a flush toilet with a septic tank in a densely populated settlement in Cap-Haitien will have very different construction and operating costs than one in Nairobi, Kenya, just like the safety of a latrine in low-lying Antanaviro, Madagascar may differ dramatically from one built in mountainous Lima.

Comparing Container-Based Sanitation Costs

While SOIL and our Container-based Sanitation Alliance (CBSA) partners all ensure full safety through the full sanitation value-chain, it’s clear from the World Bank’s case study from 2018 that cost drivers vary considerably among CBSA providers. For that reason, the CBSA, the Stone Family Foundation and the Osprey Foundation commissioned a team of consultants from EY (formerly Ernst & Young) to gather data comparing each of the six CBSA members to sanitation alternatives in their contexts. In most cities, this turned out to be easier said than done. Why? When informal laborers are digging pits for latrines or emptying their contents and they aren’t keeping accounting of their costs, as is frequently the case, it makes comparisons challenging. SOIL’s analysis was further complicated by the fact that our friends at EY were unable to travel to Haiti to do the assessment in person as they had done for the other contexts. But the EY team persevered, reviewing mountains of literature, interviewing CBS service providers, and consulting government partners and other stakeholders.

Efficient, Safe, and Durable Solutions for Rapidly Growing Cities

In the end, the data has yielded some fascinating findings! As SOIL works to sustainably expand access to cost-effective, regenerative sanitation solutions for some of the world’s most under-resourced urban communities, the results from this research will provide critical information to our government and donor stakeholders. While the summary report has yet to be released, the SOIL Cap-Haitien case study showed that when comparing direct operating costs, SOIL’s service is the lowest-cost safe sanitation option, costing 13% less than pit latrines, 40% less than septic tanks, and 69% less than sewers per household basis per year. While this affordability is certainly worthy of celebration, it also doesn’t take into consideration the upfront capital expenditures needed to install a sewer system or assess the feasibility of providing uninterrupted safely managed sanitation access in a city with limited space, unreliable energy and water inputs, contested land tenure, and high water tables.

What’s Next

In addition to proving to be the most cost-effective safe sanitation intervention in Haiti, SOIL’s sanitation service also provides a myriad of other positive externalities: preserving water and energy resources, releasing less greenhouse gas emissions, sequestering carbon, increasing local food production, and creating dignified employment opportunities. SOIL’s revolutionary CBS solution has time and time again proven resilient to a high-risk environment, representing a significant breakthrough in the urban sanitation field and opening the potential of scaling rapidly in cities lacking sanitation services.

We’re looking forward to finalizing the case study for translation and sharing with Haiti’s water and sanitation authority, DINEPA, as well as local governments and other stakeholders. Once the full study is published, we’ll be sure to share it on SOIL’s resources page online and across social media @SOIL Haiti. Stay tuned!

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Last summer, SOIL began an experiment that evaluated the potential of another waste-to-resource technology at our compost site: flies! The study looked at breeding black soldier fly (BSF) larvae for use as chicken feed. The goal of the research was to determine whether we could successfully grow BSF larvae, which feed on waste, at our Cap-Haïtien waste treatment site. If successful, the production of BSF larvae to sell as chicken feed could become an additional stream of revenue for SOIL’s waste treatment operations. The research, led by SOIL Research Associate Michèle in partnership with visiting researcher Dani, has already yielded promising results! 

The Experiment

The questions we wanted answered were: Can we manage to grow larvae in captivity under the local conditions in Cap-Haïtien? Will the larvae like the waste? And lastly, can we successfully breed the larvae by growing them into adult flies to lay more eggs for future larvae?

Attempts to grow BSF larvae fed on 100% human waste is not always successful, so the experiment included tests of five different feed mixtures:

  • 100% human waste from SOIL sanitation service
  • 70% human waste + 30% food waste
  • 70% human waste + 30% peanuts
  • 70% human waste + 30% spent grain from Haiti’s famous Prestige beer brewery
  • 100% brewery waste

Promising Results

After a lot of hard work and patience, we are thrilled to share that all of the BSF larvae survived and grew in all five of the different feed mixes!

After this success, SOIL’s research team wanted to attempt breeding the flies to see if we could recreate the life cycle of the BSF in captivity.  We created a fly cage for the larvae and set up a place for the flies to lay eggs once they had grown into adult flies. Breeding is rarely successful during the first attempt, but with some perseverance, eggs emerged and we are now on our third generation of larvae! We have also done feeding tests with some chickens to see how they responded to the larvae. The chickens munched away, proving that BSF larvae are an excellent source for chicken feed!

The success of this experiment means that SOIL can potentially rear BSF larvae on the waste collected from our sanitation service to sell as chicken feed, providing resources for other important local sectors and supporting food security in northern Haiti.

We had the chance to present the findings from the research to Haiti’s water and sanitation authority in November and they were excited by the results. More specifically, they liked the concept of the technology and the potential it has for organic waste transformation. We will continue to meet with and present new findings to Haiti’s water and sanitation authority as the study progresses. 

Coming Up

One important parameter for analysis in the BSF larvae experiment is the moisture content in the waste feed for the larvae and we aren’t sure how a difference in moisture might have influenced the results. For round two of the study beginning this month, we plan to test various moisture levels of the waste, complete a market study on chicken feed, and keep the current BSF colony alive. In partnership with UC Davis, the team also plans to analyze the BSF larvae for potential contaminants and determine their exact protein and fat content. We’re not done just yet – stay tuned!

 

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Photo: Vic Hinterlang
Photo: Vic Hinterlang

SOIL's November 2019 Newsletter

“Despite the circumstances, SOIL’s doors are staying open” shared our sanitation coordinator Algate Joseph. While communities in Haiti continue to navigate a devastating economic and political crisis, another month has passed without significant improvement.

The majority of schools in the country have yet to reopen while many service providers, hospitals, and businesses have closed – in some cases, permanently. Fuel, power, and basic goods remain hard to come by and incredibly costly. In most of Haiti’s cities, protesters have stayed in the streets nearly daily to decry worsening living conditions, inflation, and allegations of government corruption. Insecurity is noticeably on the rise through much of the country and human rights organizations report that dozens have been killed and hundreds more have been injured since the beginning of this round of demonstrations.

It is in this challenging context that SOIL’s sanitation heroes have tirelessly worked through the past month to ensure that service continues for every family with a SOIL toilet in their home. In the majority of communities where SOIL works, EkoLakay collectors have been able to continue the service with adjusted schedules. In other neighborhoods, our teams have adapted the approach further by continuing collection by foot when motorcycles are not able to pass.

Ensuring basic service provision in periods of crisis is not just as important as ever, it’s actually more critical. When hospitals are less equipped to treat sick patients or the road to the clinic is not passable, it is even more urgent to stop the spread of waterborne illness. When the risks grow for women and girls trying to find a place to go to the bathroom at night, it’s even more imperative for families to have access to an in-home toilet. Sanitation is a human right, and it’s one we will keep fighting for regardless of what the weeks ahead hold.

As we fight to keep families safe and healthy, we thank you for being a part of our community and helping to ensure our doors stay open. Please keep Haiti in your hearts.

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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!

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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!

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Organization Information

SOIL

Location: Sherburne, New York - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @SOILhaiti
Project Leader:
Leah Page
Sherburne, New York United States

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