An ecological sanitation group in Haiti known as SOIL (Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods) has won a 2018 Lush Spring Prize Established Projects Award to continue its efforts in helping to stop its country’s public health crisis spiral out of control. The key to its success? Converting human waste into rich, organic compost.
“At SOIL, regeneration is at the heart of everything we do,” says Dr. Sasha Kramer, SOIL’s Executive Director and co-founder. “We believe that waste can be transformed to restore and revitalise, instead of perpetuating disease and degradation.”
Founded in 2006 by ecologists and human rights advocates, SOIL’s original aim was to fill the void in free public sanitation services, to improve the health and dignity of its people. When that dream became financially impossible to sustain, the group switched tact and developed toilet rental service EkoLakay, which sees families pay a small monthly fee to receive a lavatory and weekly waste collection.
Currently over 6,000 people in some of Haiti’s most vulnerable urban communities have subscribed to the service. The waste is then safely treated and transformed into compost in a process that is said to exceed standards set by the World Health Organization. SOIL estimates that over 100 metric tons of compost is produced each year, which is then sold and used to heal critically depleted soil and restore the environment to its former life-giving potential. As well as improving hygiene and the environment, the creation of SOIL has also generated economic opportunities for some of the world’s most exploited communities.
The unique regeneration system used by SOIL is said to be one of the world’s most promising tests to support the idea that sanitation no longer needs to focus on waste disposal, but instead on the ecologically-beneficial nutrient capture and agricultural reuse of human waste. In 2003 it was reported that one billion people worldwide were living in informal urban settlements, with numbers expected to double by 2030, human rights advocates and governments are actively seeking sanitation solutions to stave off public health emergencies that can result from poor sanitary conditions.
SOIL’s solution is one of the few interventions that has successfully created a safe, cost-effective, and sustainable sanitation service for informal urban settlements and according to Dr. Kramer it could have far-reaching and long-term benefits globally: “The work that is underway in Haiti is part of a critical global effort to rethink sanitation to meet the needs of rapidly expanding cities worldwide and to promote the transformation of human waste into a valuable resource for combating climate change, restoring ecosystems and reconnecting rural and urban communities through re-establishing regional nutrient cycles.”
Recognised for its continued demonstration of successful regeneration, SOIL has won £25,000 in funding as part of the 2018 Lush Spring Prize Established Projects Award, which Dr. Kramer says will specifically support the expansion of SOIL’s waste treatment and composting infrastructure in Port-au-Prince and Cap-Haitien.
“We are deeply honoured to receive the Spring Prize in recognition of the regenerative sanitation system SOIL is building in Haiti. It will energize us all in the struggle to expand lifesaving, earth-restoring sanitation access in the years to come.”
To discover more about SOIL and all the great work it is doing, head over to www.oursoil.org
The Lush Spring Prize, hosted by Lush and co-operative Ethical Consumer Research Association, offers a £200,000 prize fund and other support activities, to help projects around the world that are working towards environmental and social regeneration.
Regeneration illustration by David McMillan.