A Visit From Vic!

A Visit From Vic!

SOIL was lucky enough to host Vic Hinterlang, a photojournalist and good friend of ours, for a few days in July. Here are his reflections on his time with SOIL, along with some of his amazing photographs!

I first spent time with SOIL in January 2011 when I traveled to Haiti to document the one year anniversary of the earthquake. I wasn’t able to really dig into SOIL’s activities on that trip, so this spring I asked about traveling back to Haiti over the summer to spend some more time learning about SOIL.

On July 9 I arrived at SOIL’s new Port au Prince office, took a look around, and immediately headed back out to join the compost team on a drum run. I joined SOIL employees Herby Sanon, Clotes Alexander, and Davidson Ulysse in the “Poopmobile” and we drove around the city, visiting three different camps where SOIL has public toilets. At each site the team dropped off empty drums to public toilet managers. After distributing all of the empty drums, we made another round to pick up full drums. Herby kept track of the drums collected, and when the Poopmobile was full, we headed for the SOIL composting site at Trutier to unload. While Clotes, Herby and Davidson unloaded the full drums, SOIL employees Junior Bazar, Gaspard Sanet and Yves Zepherin cleaned empty drums to be distributed in another run that afternoon.

My first day showed me most parts of SOIL’s operation cycle in Port au Prince, and so on my second day with SOIL I flew up to their offices in Cap Haitien. There, I was greeted by Regional Director Theo Huitema, along with the SOIL team and two Stanford University graduate students working on SOIL’s Household Toilet Pilot Project. Sebastien and Kory (the Stanford students) accompanied me to the Shada neighborhood where they are working on the pilot project.

In Shada, the three of us wound along the shoulder width paths between peoples’ homes to observe some of SOIL’s managed public toilets and showers, which all looked clean and well-maintained. We also looked at several of SOIL’s household toilet models, including one of the latest prototypes, a urine diversion toilet that uses a formed polypropylene insert for diversion. We also met Monsieur Dume, a proud household toilet owner who has built a bathroom specifically to house his SOIL toilet.

The next day Theo took me out to the Limonade composting site, where we watched SOIL employee Cadet Joycilene empty drums into a compost bin and Jacque Elipet spread bagasse over the full bin, covering it with a screen to keep flies out. At the drum cleaning station, Mesye Douze washed empty drums using a gasoline powered high pressure water system.

Next Theo and I went to SOIL’s experimental farm, which is also the location of Theo’s new home, built into retired compost bins (For more info, see “SOIL Director Moves Into A Compost Bin”). Largely powered by solar panels, the farm includes a fish pond in which SOIL is raising tilapia and feeding them compost; the pond is was constructed in an old compost bin. SOIL is also growing a number of crops and experimenting with the efficacy of using compost and urine as soil additives. For example, there are beds of corn and papaya being grown without compost, with compost alone and with compost and urine to see which produces best. The farm also has a substantial nursery, as well as a collection of ducks and goats.

Back in Port-au-Prince Sasha, along with most of the SOIL team, picked me up at the airport on their way out to Trutier. There, we watched compost being turned using a bobcat backloader to experiment with speeding up the composting process. There was also a group of workers turning compost manually, to compare speed. After watching these proposed changes in method come into action, Sasha and Molly checked some finished compost, running their hands through its dark richness. And with that, my SOIL story felt complete, at least for now.

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One of the first Ecological Sanitation (EcoSan) public toilets put in place by SOIL (Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods), in Milot, Haiti. SOIL hoped communities would independently take responsibility for and maintain the toilets but, by and large, they have not. This toilet is now managed, fairly indifferently, by the surrounding community without SOIL’s participation.

Pe Vila sweeps up in front of the public toilet and shower he manages in the Shada neighborhood of Cap Haitien. As an emergency response to the cholera epidemic, which hit Shada especially hard, and building on lessons learned from the first public toilets, SOIL has moved to a model that pays individuals to manage public toilets. SOIL drops off and picks up the 15 gallon plastic drums without charge and pays managers, like Pe Vila, to maintain the facilities.

Drums for a urine diversion toilet in Shada. SOIL has moved towards urine diversion toilets partly because the added liquid in the feces creates unpleasant odors in the toilets and also because the urine, being largely sterile, can immediately be used as a fertilizer. A layer of bagasse, shredded sugar cane, a by-product of rum production, or ground peanut shells, is spread after the toilet is used to cover feces and promote drying.

Mr. Dume stands beside his household toilet in Shada, for which he built a bathroom. SOIL has begun a household toilet pilot program in Shada that will include 100 families. SOIL will drop off and pick up 5 gallon drums for a monthly charge of about 100 Haitian goudes (about $2.50). SOIL believes it is important to develop a user paid system as that is the only long term functional model it has discovered. Mr. Dume’s toilet is a combined, but SOIL, with the help of graduate students from Stanford University, is moving towards the urine diversion model.

A urine diversion household toilet in Shada.

Herby Sanon, a Haitian SOIL employee in Port-au-Prince, notes the delivery of a 15 gallon drum to Marieneuve Fellisaint, manager of a public toilet in the Kan de Viktim tent camp. Drums are delivered weekly, with up to 35 drums allotted to each toilet.

Delivering drums in the Kan de Viktim tent camp in Port-au-Prince.

A little girl carries two 15 gallon drums to a drum collection point in the Dotwa tent camp in Port-au-Prince.

Magdali Rose Amber, manager of a public toilet in the Dotwa tent camp, stands beside empty drums for several of the toilets.

Saintilus Merilia, manager of a public toilet in the Kan de Viktim tent camp, signs for the drums received as Herby Sanon looks on.

Marieneuve Fellisaint, manager of a public toilet in the Kan de Viktim tent camp, checks a 15 gallon drum to see if it needs to be picked up.

Haitian SOIL employees Herby Sanon and Clotes Alexander load a full drum from a public toilet in the Kan de Zami tent camp onto the Poopmobile to be taken to the composting site at Trutier, near the Port-au-Prince municipal garbage dump.

SOIL employee Herby Sanon writes down the number of a full drum that his co-worker Davidson Ulysse has just loaded onto the truck in the Kan de Viktim tent camp.

Haitian SOIL employees Herby Sanon, Clotes Alexander and Davidson Ulysse unload full drums at the Trutier composting site. The writing on the truck translates from Creole as: “Protecting the environment is protecting yourself.”

Haitian SOIL employee Cadet Joycilene, at the Limonade composting site near Cap Haitien, empties a drum of feces and bagasse into a compost bin where the composting process will continue for up to a year until the compost is finished and ready to be used on crops.

Haitian agronomist Romel Toussaint watches Haitian SOIL employee Jacque Elipet spread bagasse over compost from just dumped drums at the Limonade composting site.

Haitian SOIL employee Jacque Elipet lowers a fly screen over the compost bin at the Limonade composting site.

Haitian SOIL emloyee Mesye Douze, wearing protective attire, cleans just emptied drums using a high pressure water system at the Limonade composting site.

SOIL employee Molly Case plunges a thermometer into a bin of compost to check its temperature at the Trutier composting site.

World Health Organization standards state that human waste must reach and maintain a temperature of 122 degrees Fahrenheit for at least a week to be considered pathogen free. The actual temperature of the compost is often much higher.

SOIL uses a borrowed bobcat to turn compost, which speeds the process, at the Trutier composting site.

Haitian SOIL employee Jimmy Louis sprinkles urine over freshly turned compost at the Trutier composting site. The urine increases moisture and nutrient inputs. The nitrogen in the urine makes the compost more fertile and speeds the process.

SOIL employee Herby Sanon, Haitian law student Jonas Pierre (red shirt) and a Haitian day laborer transfer completed compost to clean drums at the Pernier composting site in Port-au-Prince.

SOIL co-founder and Executive Director Sasha Kramer and employee Molly Case check completed compost at the Trutier composting site.

SOIL co-founder and Executive Director Sasha Kramer runs her hands through a drum of completed compost at the Trutier composting site.

SOIL’s Cap Haitien Regional Director Theo Huitema checks out the fish ponds at the experimental farm in Limonade. The tilapia feed on algae that is is grown by adding bags of compost to the water.

Compost bins and SOIL’s Cap Haitien Regional Director Theo Huitema’s new energy efficient house, built on former compost bins, at SOIL’s experimental farm in Limonade.

A storage building with a solar panel array that provides electricity, to pump water to the fish ponds, among other things, at SOIL’s experimental farm in Limonade.

Haitian university students Etienne Mackindly and Jean Toussaint Chenet plant papaya to be raised without compost as a control at SOIL’s experimental farm in Limonade.

Haitian SOIL employee Jean Claude waters African Pommes and kakao at the nursery at SOIL’s experimental farm in Limonade.

SOIL’s Cap Haitien Regional Director Theo Huitema points out a sign marking a bed of corn being grown with compost and urine at SOIL’s experimental farm in Limonade.

SOIL’s Cap Haitien Regional Director Theo Huitema, Haitian agronomist Romel Toussaint and Haitian SOIL employee and farmer Wilner Pierre check an ear of corn grown using compost and urine at SOIL’s experimental farm in Limonade.

Interested in seeing more of Vic’s amazing photographs? Visit his website, here.

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