On June 17th 2012, the World Day to Combat Desertification, the UNCCD secretariat announced the winners of its first Land for Life Award. The first prize went to the organization Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods (SOIL) in Haiti. Through community-driven ecological sanitation, where human waste is converted into valuable fertilizer, SOIL offers an integrated approach to resolving the issues of inadequate sanitation, declining soil fertility and extensive erosion. Additionally, SOIL plays a significant role in creating and strengthening capacity in this area by dedicating 10% of its annual income to local outreach and education.
Lack of sanitation facilities is a serious problem for public health in Haiti, with only 10% of rural Haitians and less than 25% of those in the cities, having access to adequate sanitation facilities. People are forced to find other ways to dispose of their wastes, often in the ocean, rivers, ravines, or plastic bags. At the same time Haiti suffers from poor soil fertility, due inter alia to the lack of fertilizers, resulting in very low agricultural output. SOIL EcoSan concept has proven to be very effective in addressing both these issues.
Ecological sanitation (EcoSan)
EcoSan is a low-cost approach to sanitation where human wastes are collected, composted and recycled for use in agriculture and reforestation. It simultaneously addresses many of Haiti’s most pressing issues including, improving public health, increasing agricultural productivity, mitigating environmental degradation, and providing low-cost sanitation.
Updated Sanitation Block in Shada, Cap Haitien
SOIL’s EcoSan toilets are currently providing essential sanitation services to thousendds of people living in the camps for people who were displaced by the 2010 earthquake, and to people living in communities throughout northern Haiti and in Cap-Haitien. These toilets generate over 5,000 gallons of waste every week that are safely transformed into rich, organic compost at one of SOIL’s decentralized composting waste treatment facilities around the country.
Local Capacity Building through education and cooperation
Since building Haiti’s first EcoSan toilet in 2006, SOIL has gone on to become one of the country’s largest sanitation providers. SOIL not only builds, designs and implements the ecological sanitation solutions, but also engages in many effective efforts of capacity building. SOIL dedicates about 10% of its annual budget to education, advocacy and outreach efforts. The organization engages in grassroots outreach through community events, door-to-door surveys, and information sessions in order to increase interest in, and acceptance of ecological sanitation and the compost that it generates. They regularly host scientists and exchange students to conduct research on sustainable land management, compost techniques and agricultural productivity.
“SOIL Guide to Ecosan”
SOIL not only provides their Ecosan solutions to the people who most need it, but also engages in knowledge transfer and capacity building. The SOIL demonstration farms and seeding nursery, used to test land management practices, are also frequently used for public tours, and for teaching farmers’ and other organizations about proper land management. It conducts regular one-day trainings on how to implement ecological sanitation projects. These trainings held in Port-au-Prince, are offered in English and Haitian Creole.
Experimental Garden Plots
In 2011 SOIL produced the “SOIL Guide to Ecological Sanitation”. This 140-page guide book, available in English and Haitian Creole, covers topics such as toilet designs, management strategies, composting techniques and lessons learned. The guide is based on over six years of ecological sanitation experience in Haiti, and has been distributed so far to more than 500 people from over 20 different countries.
As a result of these efforts, SOIL has become a great example of local knowledge development, which gets shared all over the world through advocacy via its website and social media. So far over 600 people from 50 different organizations have participated in the SOIL trainings, have purchased the “SOIL Guide to Ecosan”, or have consulted SOIL on the development and implementation of their own projects.
On the SOIL website you can find a wealth of resources on ecological sanitation. You can also request a download of the “SOIL Guide to EcoSan”.
You can contribute to SOIL by making a donation or becoming a volunteer. And do check out their “wish list” of supplies needed to continue their work.
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Lack of sanitation facilities is a serious problem for public health in Haiti. At the same time, Haiti suffers from poor soil fertility due in part to soil erosion and a lack of fertilizers, resulting in very low agricultural output.