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A Social Business Model for Ecological Sanitation

In Haiti (as in many developing countries), sanitation services traditionally come in two varieties. First, there are private companies that empty septic tanks for the wealthier ranks of society. However, septic technology is water-intensive and often results in pathogenic and nutrient-intensive human waste flooding into poorer neighborhoods and vulnerable aquatic ecosystems. It’s also financially unattainable for the majority of the population, a problem that the the second variety attempts to address. Largely composed of non-profit international humanitarian projects, these efforts too often fail when donor interest inevitably wanes. The developing world is littered with well-intentioned projects that are abandoned without having created any kind of meaningful or lasting change.

SOIL is working to open a third way between unsustainable, foreign-funded humanitarian projects on the one hand, and expensive, exclusive, and environmentally-hazardous businesses on the other. The social business initiative has the potential to vastly expand global sanitation access in an affordable, sustainable way, while creating new jobs and livelihoods. Furthermore, it doesn’t just prevent further harm to people and the the environment, it actively restores health to the soil – reducing food insecurity, erosion, mudslides, and flooding in the process.

SOIL’s EkoLakay provides an innovative, holistic service with multiple sources of revenue and very low barriers to entry. Here’s how the model works:

  • 140623 PAP ProfVic HHT Compost WisnelCustomers rent a toilet (built by local contractors using local materials) for approximately $5 USD per month; the fee also includes carbon cover material (used for flushing) and weekly waste collection.
  • After collecting the full buckets, SOIL transports the waste to our compost sites, where, through a carefully monitored process that exceeds the World Heath Organization’s standards for the thermophilic composting, the waste is transformed into nutrient-rich compost.
  • SOIL then sells the compost for use in agriculture and reforestation projects, providing an environmentally-friendly alternative to chemical fertilizers while generating revenue to support the provision of sanitation services.

This pilot will demonstrate the market potential of low-income, urban communities and a healthy, diversified revenue stream that can inspire and attract small businesses in Haiti. In the next few years, this project will provide a point of entry for small Haitian businesses to begin participating in the service delivery system and/or implementing similar projects of their own – thereby helping to increase sanitation access across Haiti, contributing to long-term job creation and building up a system that can continue long after international aid for Haiti has dried up.