Is There Demand for a Better Toilet?

Photo: Vic Hinterlang

We know the global sanitation system is broken. Around the world nearly 2.5 billion people lack access to a toilet of any kind and even more than that lack access to a toilet that ensures safe waste treatment. Over the past 4 years SOIL has made in-home toilets accessible to households in Haiti through our EkoLakay toilet service. What we didn’t know, and have been trying to discover, was how much people are willing to pay for a household toilet.

As SOIL set out to see if we could answer that question and explore new markets for EkoLakay in Port-au-Prince, we discovered some unexpected trends in sanitation satisfaction and well as a palpable interest in SOIL’s EkoLakay’s toilets across two neighborhoods in the capital city, Simon-Pele and Santo!

Of the people who reported  having access to a toilet, 70% were using a private latrine or a flush toilet. What we hadn’t expected to learn was that among these families with private sanitation access, there was only a 30% satisfaction rate. Private toilets are generally seen as a much more favorable solution than shared public options, so it was surprising to our team to hear that nearly one-third of families with private toilets still weren’t satisfied with their sanitation service.

We believe this gap between access to sanitation and satisfaction is a key entry point for EkoLakay into Port-au-Prince’s market.

Gauging Interest in EkoLakay Toilets

After asking questions to gather data on demographics and sanitation coverage, SOIL’s team presented EkoLakay’s ecological sanitation solution. The interest in EkoLakay’s composting toilets in these new communities was pretty astounding, with 74% of people expressing interest during our initial conversation.

This response is even greater than a similar survey SOIL conducted in 2015 where we found that 50% of individuals who already had toilets were still interested in switching to EkoLakay. And, as we dug a little deeper, we learned that 65% of respondents would actually be willing to pay a monthly service fee that was $1.50-$2.50 higher than our current fee for EkoLakay.

In order to improve sanitation marketing across existing and future service zones, we wanted to understand why households were interested in EkoLakay. Most people told us that they were interested in EkoLakay’s toilets for safety and health reasons, which mirrors what we have heard from current EkoLakay users in a survey we conducted this summer.

Why do we think there is a high willingness to pay for a quality sanitation solution? SOIL’s EkoLakay model has been adapted to community feedback at every step of the process and the end result is a toilet that is safer, more affordable, and more durable than the alternatives.

Not only does shifting away from a flush toilet mean that families can save money on the water they would otherwise need for flushing, it also ensures that the waste from the toilets is fully treated, unlike the majority of flush toilets in Haiti which leach waste directly into the environment. People want to keep dangerous waste out of the environment, and SOIL’s EkoLakay service provides them a low-cost and accessible way to do that.

Growing EkoLakay

We’re excited to incorporate all that we’ve from this research into our efforts to refine and grow EkoLakay and we’ll be sure to share updates from our teams throughout Haiti in the months to come. Stay tuned!

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