Disaster Risk Reduction and Environmental Protection: SOIL, ARC and WWF at the Crossroads

This past Thursday, SOIL hosted an educational training session with the American Red Cross (ARC) and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to use SOIL’s experiences in ecological sanitation as a model for how to think about development work in an environmental context. The day-long workshop was attended by 36 members of the American Red Cross, a representative from WWF and a crew from SOIL.  It was an amazing day and we hope just the first of many collaborative endeavors!

This event came about as a result of an exciting partnership between the American Red Cross and WWF. ARC and WWF first worked together after the Indian Ocean tsunami.

The SOIL team talks about Haiti: the Pearl of the Antilles

As millions of dollars of international donations flowed in in response to the disaster, these two organizations realized there is a need to focus on both social/health and environmental factors in order to truly rebuild safely for the long term by reducing risk of future  disasters. Historically, WWF has focused on conservation while the American Red Cross has responded to disasters focused on relief.  Given the relationship between environmental degradation and the severity of disasters, it has become clear that there is a need for more collaboration between humanitarian and conservation organizations to enhance environmental and social resilience to disasters, ensuring that money and training go towards reducing risk and not just disaster response.  These two organizations are now working together in Haiti to do the same.

The teams work on a mock environmental risk analysis for a decentralized composting site

WWF is interested in partnering with local organizations with context specific experience and cultural fluency and approached SOIL to capitalize on the rapport that SOIL has achieved in Haiti and the environmental focus of SOIL’s work. Additionally, the work that SOIL does with ecological sanitation (EcoSan) echoes the WWF/ARC program’s philosophy in that it is a holistic response to a sectoral program, transforming a sanitation intervention into an agricultural and environmental initiative.

SOIL’s training, held at the lovely Sakala conference center and urban garden in Cite Soleil, was focused on the theme of disaster risk reduction in the context of Haiti.  Each of the participants was given a T-shirt at the beginning of the day that represented their interest group and they were asked to think about all of the sections of the workshop from the perspective of their group and the effect (both positive and negative) that their group has on the environment.  There were 5 interest groups represented: 1) FATRA (garbage), 2) LAPE (peace), 3)PYE BWA (trees), 4) DLO (water) and 5) KAKA (poop – SOIL’s personal favorite). After a morning of debates about the potential for poop and garbage to improve the

Gaspard demonstrates how hot a compost pile at the SOIL site really can get. HOT!

environment and some energetic discussions about the relationship between the different groups represented, the teams headed out into the field to visit the amazing Jardin Tap Tap and SOIL’s lovely composting waste treatment site to get their hands dirty (and then clean again).

SOIL is so pleased to have inaugurated the new WWF partnership with the American Red Cross with such a successful and fun educational training session. We hope to have many more in the future!





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