Theatre Group Promotes SOIL EcoSan Toilets in Haiti

In order to reach people who would most benefit from ecological sanitation, such as those in Cap-Haitien’s crowded slums without modern plumbing or electricity, SOIL is using innovative methods to break down cultural barriers towards ecological sanitation. SOIL has been collaborating with a small theatre group to develop a 20-minute sketch promoting the EcoSan toilets SOIL has been providing and maintaining over the years. Here is recap of the story, for entertainment, and for a better understanding of common obstacles SOIL has overcome over the years.

The play opens with the main character Djabolo speaking of his family’s many trials: they are so poor that they literally don’t have a pot to piss in, they are constantly ill with diarrhea, and their vegetables won’t grow in their barren plot. Enters Madanm Bwa, SOIL’s community organizer (her impersonator, that is) with the solution to all his problems: an EcoSan toilet. But Djabolo is not interested – a toilet inside the house? How disgusting! And a toilet without flush or plumbing – that’s like a car without tires! What folly.

However, he later realizes the importance of sanitation when a neighbor almost dies of cholera, most likely due to his own daughters throwing plastic bags they defecated into up onto the neighbor’s roof where she collects rainwater for drinking.

SOIL’s gleaming white toilet box and lid is met with astonishment and praise, and neighbors congratulate him on what they believe is his new refrigerator. But after Madanm Bwa explains how to use the toilet, and how SOIL collects buckets twice a week to turn poop into fertile, sanitized compost for growing gardens, family and neighbors are even more enthusiastic.

Djabolo almost changes his mind when he finds out that bucket collection will cost him 200 Goudes (less than $5) a month. But his wife reasons with him, pointing out that they spend over 600 Gdes a month on plastic bags to defecate in – so this beautiful, odorless and comfortable toilet would actually save them money!

Djabolo recites his lines in the play promoting SOIL EcoSan toilets in Limbe, Haiti

The play ends with his neighbors running out to call Madanm Bwa to get a toilet of their own, and Djabolo’s family extolling their new toilet’s virtues.

The inaugural run of the play opened to an enthusiastic audience in Limbe (in northern Haiti) on May 1st, Haiti’s national holiday for agriculture and work. Over 30 SOIL employees attended the festival wearing matching SOIL t-shirts and extolling the benefits of EcoSan and EcoSan compost. Trees from the SOIL / Trees, Water & People nursery were available for sale as well as green bracelets saying “Konpos Lakay” (SOIL’s compost brand, means literally “Compost of the House”, figuratively “Local Compost”) and small sample bags of EcoSan compost.

As a result of the play’s roaring success, the theater group plans to repeat the performance at workshops and festivals around Haiti in the interest of increasing use of SOIL’s low-cost, environmental sanitation technologies.

Check out all the May 1st photos from SOIL’s play and presentation in Limbe, Haiti:

[slickr-flickr search=”sets” set=”72157633417355403″ items=”50″]

No Replies to "Theatre Group Promotes SOIL EcoSan Toilets in Haiti"

  • Sophie Brock
    May 7, 2013 (3:40 pm)

    Thanks for posting this! I love the photos, and I’m so glad it was a roaring success!

  • Trees, Water & People
    May 7, 2013 (4:34 pm)

    Great post and wonderful photos! Thanks for sharing the latest news from Haiti!

  • Criss Juliard
    May 8, 2013 (10:31 pm)

    Terrific idea using Theater to promote a new “technology.”
    You are onto something important; when a person has a positive experienced after adopting a new approach or a new technology, a short video clip of that person explaining to a friend the benefits of adapting the new technology; the message is much more powerful and persuasive than a setting where one person lectures or speaks directly to an audience about the same innovative approach. It’s the video or the theater that become the most convincing to doubters and to those who did not want to adapt to the game changing technology.

  • Prakash
    May 12, 2013 (3:56 pm)

    I am happy to read about your success with a eco-toilet. Recently, I was able to convince the district admin in Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh India to build 5 demo Units.
    I have known about the virtues and design of the eco-toilets for over three when I visited Scope an NGO in Tamil Nadu India and got the video clips they used for its promotion.
    After showing to many groups in rural villages in the district I was able convince one of my staff and his family use such a toilet.
    Then I had a user of the toilet talk about his positive experience compared to open defecation which helped me to get five families in another village to build such a toilet with the support given under the government scheme.
    Since then we have more families seeking to build the eco-toilets.
    However, in our design as compared to the one reported of SOIL’s is that we allow the night soil to remain at the base of the toilet with two compartment for one to filled by use while other with night-soil filled after use for several months going through the process of getting converted useful compost enrich the land of the farming family.
    Our eco-toilet users are yet reach the stage of reaping the benefit compost from the toilet.

    • Leah Page
      May 15, 2013 (12:38 pm)

      Thanks for the note Prakash. Your project sounds very interesting. We used to use double vault toilets in Haiti too but found that there wasn’t enough organic cover material in the urban communities where we were building them and there were so many people using them that they weren’t sufficiently drying out and composting within the time frame we needed. The new drum system we have is working very well for us in that it allows us to remove any potentially pathogenic material and we can complete the compost process in a controlled environment. That said – we have heard great things about the model of toilet you’re using and we wish the best with your compost!

  • Paul
    June 17, 2013 (1:34 pm)

    We also found street drama very useful in promoting sanitation, in particular health, hygiene and use of urine diverting toilets in high water table areas in Kerala. We acted out our street drama at bus stands, by the school, places of worship (not during the prayer times!)and at the market places. This was in 1996 – 1998 when we were first developing the toilet. It was very valuable and also enjoyable. Lots of people came forward to ask questions and clear doubts. We also made it possible for people to ask privately if they had doubts or concerns they didnt want to say publically. The street drama definately helped bring a wider understanding and uptake.

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