The mission of SOIL is to promote dignity, health, and sustainable livelihoods through the transformation of wastes into resources.
Composting waste treatment system represents a safe, low-cost option for tackling the sanitation crisis. SOIL primarily focuses on promoting the use of ecological sanitation (EcoSan), a process by which human wastes are converted into valuable compost. EcoSan simultaneously tackles some of Haiti’s toughest challenges by providing sanitation to people who would otherwise have no access to a toilet and producing an endless supply of rich, organic compost critical for agriculture and reforestation. Working with communities to design and test ecologically and socially beneficial solutions, SOIL's technologies are simple, easy to replicate, require minimal water, and provide safe and dignified access to sanitation.
As the world sets its eyes on the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030, SOIL’s full value chain approach to sanitation is one of the few global interventions that fully complies with the updated sanitation criteria which look beyond the provision of toilets to safe waste treatment and water reuse. SOIL’s EcoSan toilets, which ensure 100% waste transformation, are demonstrating to the world that a circular sanitation economy is possible.
Background and objectives
Haiti was once known as the Pearl of the Antilles for its vibrant, bountiful, and productive land. Today, Haiti struggles with endemic poverty and cannot produce enough food for its population. The majority of Haitians have no access to a toilet, and as people work to restore their country’s economy and environment, and to keep their families safe and healthy, every day Haiti’s soils are contaminated with untreated human waste, fueling waterborne disease and preventing Haiti’s environment from reaching its full potential.
Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods (SOIL) is a US non-profit organization founded in 2006 in northern Haiti. SOIL is driven by a philosophy called Liberation Ecology. Influenced by both the liberation theology movement and ecological theory, Liberation Ecology recognizes that the most threatened and marginalized human beings will generally be found living in similarly threatened ecosystems. SOIL seeks to empower the marginalized and oppressed, equipping them to restore their environments by transforming dangerous pollutants into valuable resources.
- Sanitation: Safe, dignified, sustainable sanitation that is accessible to all Haitians – and all those living in impoverished communities around the world. An in-home toilet provides a sense of pride, and means increased safety and security for women and girls in particular.
- Public Health: Increasing access to sanitation means putting a stop to waterborne and diarrheal disease. By removing pathogenic waste from the communities they serve, SOIL is combatting common diseases like cholera and typhoid.
- Productivity: Keeping children and families safe and healthy allows them to attend work and school with fewer interruptions, meaning greater economic security and productivity.
- Environmental restoration: Ensuring that all human waste is safely treated lessens the burden on Haiti’s fragile environment. Going a step further and transforming wastes into rich compost proactively heals Haiti’s environment, and helps to combat the effects of climate change.
- Sustainable communities: creating community-based jobs, dismantling the taboos around sanitation, and fostering the belief that access to sanitation is a human right.
SOIL puts Liberation Ecology to action through livelihood creation in the sanitation sector. Their social business models follow the EcoSan cycle, creating jobs along the way that ensure their impact is truly lasting. From the construction of EkoLakay and EkoMobil toilets, to selling compost, to harvesting more crops, they are creating new value chains that are far-reaching and supportive of life’s most crucial daily necessities.
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.
SOIL's social business model around ecological sanitation (EcoSan) is a process in which nutrients from human wastes return to the soil rather than polluting fresh water resources.
Social business pilot EkoLakay is a container-based ecological sanitation solution. Container Based Sanitation is any end-to-end service that collects human waste hygienically from toilets built with sealable, removable containers and strives to ensure that the waste is safely treated, disposed of, and reused. CBS solutions represent an elegant and waterless solution to pit latrines and traditional sewerage systems.
Every household signed up for SOIL’s growing household toilet service, EkoLakay, is provided with an in-home toilet, toilet maintenance services, and weekly waste collection. Each month EkoLakay customers pay a small service fee, and with cost reductions and innovations, we believe that this service fee will ultimately fully cover the cost of providing EkoLakay.
- Waste Transformation: 100% of the waste from SOIL's toilets are collected and transported to to one of SOIL's waste treatment sites. Waste is transformed into rich, agricultural-grade compost through a carefuly monitored process that includes thorough lab testing. The composting process adheres to the World Health Organization’s standards for safe treatment of human waste, is affordable, relies on minimal water, and ultimately transforms wastes into valuable environmental resources.
- Agricultural Growth: SOIL produces an increasing quantity of Konpòs Lakay, SOIL’s EcoSan compost, each year. Producing affordable, organic compost that can be used to restore soil fertility helps farmers grow more food and improves the viability of reforestation efforts in Haiti. Healthier and more resilient soils are also less vulnerable to natural disasters because strong soils are less susceptible to drought and erosion. The use of compost for reforestation further stabilizes soils, helping to prevent catastrophic floods and mudslides. We believe that by helping farmers produce healthy, locally grown crops and working to create fertile and resilient soils across the country, Haiti can once again be a place of agricultural bounty
- Education and Outreach: SOIL is committed to sharing knowledge, because when more people are empowered through education, they can accelerate change. SOIL provides capacity-building seminars on ecological sanitation throughout Haiti. In one community, Shada, SOIL is directly providing public toilets to one of Haiti’s most vulnerable communities.
In addition to their household sanitation program, SOIL is spreading the word about EcoSan by providing commercial sanitation. Using traditional portable toilets retrofitted to use ecological sanitation technology, EkoMobil provides safe, dignified toilets and waste treatment services for community fairs, construction sites, and other events. These toilets help SOIL earn revenue while also demonstrating the desirability of EcoSan toilets to a larger market base in Haiti.
Financing and resources
SOIL is dedicated to financial efficiency, local sourcing, and transparency. Over 93% of every dollar contributed goes directly to their sanitation and environmental programs in Haiti.
Results and impacts
- +5,940 people accessing SOIL EcoSan toilets through SOIL's growing EkoLakay social business pilot
- An endless supply of compost sold for agricultural and reforestation efforts around Haiti (+84 metric tons of compost sold in 2017)
- +1,000 people benefiting from SOIL’s education programs and resources each year
- Since building the first waste treatment facility in Haiti in 2009, SOIL has gone on to become one of the largest waste treatment operations in the country, treating thousands of gallons of waste each month.
SOIL’s composting waste treatment system emits significantly fewer greenhouse gases than traditional waste treatment methods, and SOIL is engaged in several research collaborations with US universities, including University of Hawaii and Stanford University, to evaluate the climate implications of composting waste treatment.
Since 2012 the project has won many national and international Awards in recognition for its achievments. To see full list, click here: https://www.oursoil.org/honors-and-awards/
Lessons learned and transferability
SOIL's success is committed to:
- Cultural Fluency: Over 90% of their staff members are Haitian. All of their staff speak the local language (Haitian Creole) to facilitate communication and understanding with the communities where they operate.
- Local Sourcing: They purchase supplies locally and contract with local businesses whenever possible, keeping their costs down while supporting the long-term expansion of Haiti’s economy.
- Inclusivity: Beneficiaries are consulted at every step of project design and implementation, ensuring that their programs are community-driven and responding to real, not simply perceived, needs.
- Innovation: Their projects are designed with identified income streams, and they focus on solutions that can become financially self-supporting.
- Expertise: They value knowledge gained through both formal training and life experience; because their dedicated employees live and work in the communities SOIL serves, they are truly experts in local solutions for sanitation, agriculture, business development, and community organizing.
SOIL is developing research driven open-source solutions for a model that will be suitable for global replication. The development of container-based sanitation (CBS) solutions such as SOIL’s EkoLakay service (which relies on solid waste collection systems as opposed to sewers), allows for rapidly expanding informal settlements to have access to dignified sanitation services without having to wait for the massive upfront capital required to install sewer systems. SOIL is determined to share lessons learned, best practices, and research findings with partners and fellow sanitation practitioners around the globe to encourage an increasing understanding and adoption of ecological sanitation solutions. SOIL’s work is open-source and proactively shared as part of SOIL's consultancy program to provide guidance and support to other communities. Each day SOIL receives consulting and training requests from within Haiti and globally and to date SOIL has provided consultancy services to dozens of projects in Haiti as well as supporting work in Madagascar, Benin, Sierra Leone, and Kenya. Components of SOIL’s toilet model have been adopted for use in Kenya and the United States, and SOIL’s composting facilities have helped inform work in Ghana, Peru, and Kenya.
SOIL is a founding member of the Container Based Sanitation Alliance, a coalition of practitioners developing CBS services around the world. The Alliance coalesced to formally establish CBS as a viable alternative to traditional sanitation technologies, and the goal is to bring CBS services to scale and achieve lasting impact for families and communities in urban areas around the world.
SOIL 2017 Annual Report, available at: http://www.oursoil.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/2017-SOIL-Annual-Report.pdf