Mercy Corps Global Envision: Transforming Poo into a Valuable Resource

By Pete Mercouriou on May 10, 2012 in Mercy Corp’s Global Envision.

In Haiti, one nonprofit may have figured out how to make a pot o’ gold out of a port-o-pot.

Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods, or SOIL is dedicated to protecting soil resources, empowering communities, and transforming human waste into a valuable resource in Haiti. Leah Nevada Page, SOIL’s development director, gave us an insider’s scoop on poop.

What’s the importance of ecological sanitation and how is it received in Haiti?

“When SOIL first started in Haiti, we provided seminars and trainings on a range of different environmental designs (water treatment, solar energy, etc.) but improved sanitation quickly emerged as the most hotly requested intervention. Our “ecological sanitation”-generated compost has also been well received—our first compost buyers were local community organizations based in the areas using SOIL toilets. People knew they were producing a good thing!”

Given the Ecosan training seminars’ popularity, are there plans to grow?

“Due to high demand, SOIL offers monthly seminars on EcoSan in Port-au-Prince, alternating every month between English and Creole. SOIL is currently working with the Haitian government department of water and sanitation (DINEPA) to organize and host the first ever national EcoSan conference this summer.”

From the toilet, to the collector, to the aeration pit, to the farmer, to the crop. How many people does SOIL’s ecological sanitation team directly/indirectly impact?

“Toilet wastes are picked up regularly by the SOIL Poopmobile and driven to a decentralized SOIL waste treatment site where they are composted for a minimum of six months in a process that adheres to the highest public health safety standards. The resulting compost is then used in SOIL’s own demonstration farms or sold to organizations working on agricultural and reforestation programs. SOIL is currently providing sanitation to an estimated 20,000 people and is generating compost at a rate of 5,000 gallons per week.”

Have you seen this model elsewhere?

“Ecological sanitation is actually surprisingly prevalent in large urban centers in the U.S. Los Angeles and New York, among many others, actually treat some or all of their waste using these techniques and sell the resulting compost to landscaping supply companies. In Los Angeles they’ve found that this significantly reduces the city’s sanitation costs as they don’t have to pay to dispose of the waste (instead they are paid for their “wastes”). SOIL’s model for Port-au-Prince is not that different from what is already working in large urban centers across the developed world—we just cut out the need for water and large sewer infrastructure, thereby making it affordable, replicable and sustainable.”

Check out SOIL’s video.

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