Press Release: SOIL Wins Early Entry Prize in Ashoka Nutrients for All Contest
According to Ashoka, “The challenge is clear: we need innovative solutions that will ensure the availability of nutrients for healthy, natural ecosystems, farms, food, and people.”
SOIL’s entry, Closing the Loop, Transforming the Poop, proposes a simple solution to counteract the downward spiral of soil degradation and poverty in Haiti and around the world. In line with Ashoka’s challenge, SOIL’s pioneering work emphasizes the value of human waste, and shifts the sanitation dynamic from waste disposal to resource conservation and safe reuse. By turning a public health problem into a sustainable solution for soil restoration, SOIL’s work sets a global example for how sanitation services can preserve nutrients and fight malnutrition.
The final winner will be announced on September 18, 2013. Keep your fingers crossed for us!
SOIL’s Ashoka Entry
SOIL builds ecological sanitation (EcoSan) systems in Haiti that transform human wastes into rich compost. By turning a public health problem into a sustainable solution for soil restoration, SOIL’s work sets a global example for how sanitation services can preserve nutrients and fight malnutrition.
Over 2/3 of the world’s population has no access to a toilet and, as a result, waterborne disease is one of the leading causes of death in children under 5 in developing countries. While aquatic ecosystems are becoming increasingly polluted with nutrients from human waste, the Earth’s soils exhibit rapidly declining fertility, reducing agricultural production and leading to poverty and malnutrition.
SOIL strives to counteract the downward spiral of soil degradation and poverty by developing social business models for EcoSan solutions. SOIL’s toilets safely collect toilet wastes which are then transported to decentralized composting sites. Through thermophillic composting, the wastes are safely transformed into rich compost critical for soil improvement. In order to increase market demand for this inexhaustible supply of soil nutrients, SOIL then engages in agricultural research and educational outreach. Potential income streams from throughout the EcoSan cycle (toilet and compost sales, user fees, and waste treatment fees) are used to support the project and entice entrepreneurs to replicate it around the country and globally.
In Shada, a densely populated urban neighborhood with few services and a devastatingly high rate of cholera, SOIL has begun constructing EcoSan toilets small enough and scentless enough to conveniently fit into small homes. The specially designed toilet seats separate urine and feces so that the potentially pathogenic solid wastes are collected into sealable 5 gallon buckets. In exchange for a monthly household user fee of approximately $5 USD, SOIL picks up the full toilet buckets each week and leaves toilet owners with clean empty buckets and a sufficient quantity of organic matter (such as peanut husks) to “flush” their toilets after each use. The user fees cover the full cost of transportation and maintenance.
Since building Haiti’s first EcoSan toilet in 2006 and Haiti’s first urban waste treatment site in 2009, SOIL has gone on to become one of the larger sanitation providers in Haiti with effective toilets and waste treatment facilities around the country, strong partnerships with the non-profit, business, and government sectors, and an information-sharing and educational program that has helped increase the use of EcoSan globally. SOIL now transforms 5,000+ gallons of human waste into compost on a weekly basis and 30,000+ people have accessed SOIL EcoSan toilets. 700+ people from more than 25 countries have downloaded The SOIL Guide to EcoSan and 1,000+ people have participated in SOIL educational activities. Over the next 3 years, SOIL’s aims to treat 150,000+ gallons of human waste per year, provide sanitation for 40,000+ people, create 200+ jobs, and sell 250+ tons of compost.
SOIL focuses on grassroots-level programming with an unparalleled level of cultural fluency, an inclusive process of program design, and a proven record of implementing projects in challenging circumstances. Too many innovations fail to reach beneficiaries due to lack of local connections or implementation expertise. And while there are some superb working models for how innovative designs can be implemented at the community level, they rarely have a robust information-sharing program to assist others in replicating the success. SOIL’s proven outreach program spread our success globally.
Although SOIL is a non-profit, we believe that the key to sustainability is social business development. Our work explores the creation and capture of revenue throughout the EcoSan cycle to ensure that SOIL’s projects can be brought to scale by the private sector. For example, SOIL recently sold a large quantity of compost to the farmers growing sorghum for Haiti’s famous beer, Prestige, setting a national example for demand driven sanitation.