Back to the Basics: An Overview of SOIL’s Essential Service

Readers of our blog might know that SOIL provides EkoLakay sanitation services to households in the city of Cap-Haïtien on Haiti’s northern coast and that we are currently providing this essential service to nearly 2,000 households, impacting over 11,000 individuals. This past year alone, our sanitation and composting staff collected and treated over 500 metric tons of waste from the communities we serve and produced 170 metric tons of compost through our ecological waste treatment process.

But do you know how the service works? 

For new potential household customers, the EkoLakay journey begins when an individual expresses interest in wanting to join the service. SOIL’s sales team then sets up a visit to the potential subscriber’s home to determine if the household has adequate space to accommodate a private toilet. Although our container-based sanitation (CBS) toilets are small and mobile, they do require space and must be protected from weather if placed outside. 

Once space feasibility is demonstrated, a contract is signed by both parties and fees are collected from the new customer for toilet installation and the first month of EkoLakay collection service. Next, toilet installation is scheduled and during the installation visit, household members are shown how to use and maintain their CBS toilet. 

The EkoLakay toilets are equipped with a sealable container that holds up to five gallons of solid excreta and a one gallon jug that receives liquid waste through a urine diverter. Users manually dispose of the urine via infiltration into the ground (reducing the volume and weight of excreta that must be transported) and leave full containers of waste in designated pick up spots outside of the home for collection. Each week, collection teams exchange the full containers of waste for empty containers and fresh bonzodè (organic cover material).

The EkoLakay team uses 3-wheeled motos with modified beds (affectionately referred to as “Poop Mobiles”) to carry full containers to a transfer station in TiLari. Twice a week a flatbed truck transports the full containers from the transfer station depot to the waste treatment facility outside of Cap-Haitien in Limonade. Clean, empty containers are brought back to the TiLari depot to be filled with cover material. 

The staff at our waste treatment and composting facility Mouchinette, work together to empty, wash, and return clean containers to the Ekolakay service team. The waste treatment team are currently using two methods for composting waste treatment: 1) our traditional bin method, where waste is emptied into large bins to begin the ecological and thermophilic process of composting and 2) our new pilot windrow method, where waste is emptied into windrows. The waste begins the process of breaking down and is monitored until all pathogens have died off. This is a natural, ecological process that takes 6-9 months (using the bin method), or approximately 3 months (using the windrow method) before the compost is ready for market. 

Once the collected waste from the sanitation service has been treated and transformed into organic, agriculture grade compost we sell the end product, Konpòs Lakay, across Haiti with a guarantee that it’s pathogen free. (Our treatment process has been developed alongside global experts and exceeds standards set by the World Health Organization for the safe treatment of human waste.) 

Konpòs Lakay helps farmers increase their agricultural harvests and is also proving to be instrumental in restoring ecosystems and mitigating against the impacts of climate change through increased soil water retention, restoration, and carbon sequestration. This means that with every sack of compost that SOIL sells, Haiti is becoming a little more resilient to droughts, floods that wash away topsoil, climate change, and food insecurity.

SOIL’s holistic, full-cycle sanitation model demonstrates positive impacts across the entire sanitation value chain to support livelihood opportunities, public health, environmental protection and restoration and access to basic human rights. SOIL’s customer approved, accessible and affordable service model has enabled us to provide essential sanitation services to vulnerable urban households, many who have previously not been able to access a safe sanitation option prior to joining the service. We are incredibly proud of how far we have come and are excited to continue to grow this life-saving service to reach more families and households in the coming years.

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