Food Tank: Food Hero: Sasha Kramer, How SOIL Works at the Nexus of Human Rights and Ecology

By Sasha Kramer, in Food Tank, March 16, 2014

Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods (SOIL) is an organization based in Haiti that was founded in 2006 with a mission of ensuring nutrients for all through the transformation of wastes into resources, or more precisely by turning poop into soil.  We believe that the key to equitable access to nutrients, in a world filled with inequality, is to empower communities to harness the power of ecological processes to transform a dangerous pollutant into a valuable resource.

SOIL was founded on the philosophy of liberation ecology: every human being has the right to health and happiness and waste does not exist either in social or ecological systems. And over the years we’ve found that the most direct way to implement this philosophy in the communities where we work is through a technology called ecological sanitation, whereby human wastes are converted into fertile soil by naturally occurring soil microbes.

But how did we come to the conclusion that converting poop into soil was the way to live what we believe?

Well for me the inspiration for the biological part of our work came from an exam question in graduate school: “you are a nitrogen molecule, describe your journey through the ecosystem”. This inspired me to view the world in terms of elemental cycles and I began peeing on my compost pile in an effort to recycle nutrients through my own body.

My social inspiration came from my early experiences as a human rights advocate in Haiti, where I saw that the most pervasive human rights abuse was actually poverty and the fact that people did not have access to basic services. In a country where diarrhea is the leading cause of death in children under five years of age, the fact that less than 30 percent of the population has access to a toilet constitutes a human rights violation. Haiti was once called the Pearle of the Antilles for its fertile soil and now 58% of the population is undernourished. This lack of available nutrients for all constitutes a human rights violation.

Together with an amazing team of colleagues we started SOIL with the idea that the transformation of wastes into resources was a way to work at the nexus of ecology and human rights, using the ingenuity of ecological systems to empower people to turn a public health problem into an environmental and economic solution.

For more information on SOIL’s founding philosophy see the following article posted at Ashoka Change Stories.

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Sasha Kramer is the Co-founder and Executive Director of the organization Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods (SOIL) and has been living and working in Haiti since 2006.

by Sasha Kramer

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