AIDG Haiti Update [Excerpt from Ecogeek interview]

Defunct public latrine in Cap Haitien
Defunct public latrine in Cap Haitien

An excerpt from Pete’s Ecogeek interview that encapsulates where we are now and our next steps in Haiti.

EG: Let’s talk about your recent expansion into Haiti. What is your business focus there?

PH: We are starting a project in Cap-Haïtien, the second largest city with a population of 500 – 800 thousand. Only about 30% of the residents have access to real sanitation. Right now solid waste goes directly into the ocean or into canals that wash into the ocean. We are working with the mayor’s office there, Oxfam and a couple of local NGOs to develop a municipal scale treatment center outside of the city. We are going to provide a solid waste treatment plant and the supporting infrastructure for a larger percentage of the population. Our goal is to create a municipal scale biogas production facility and use smaller scale biogas for areas where our infrastructure can’t reach. There are places in Cap-Haïtien where latrines are used but they are just a few feet above the water table and people have wells directly next to the latrines. This creates contamination and disease. We are working to develop appropriate scale biogas in these places.

EG: How do you think you can make money providing sanitation?

PH: Our goal for this and all of our projects is that the businesses we incubate should be able to support themselves within their local economy. We have a very low lending rate. We are not looking to make a lot of money, we’re looking to provide a service. The question is whether the business can make enough money to sustain itself. Right now there are people making their livings off of cleaning latrines. They do this with just shovels and wheelbarrows. They go into the latrine waste deep in excrement and they shovel it into a wheelbarrow. They drag the material off to a pit or they drag it to the ocean and dump it there. Our goal is to help them organize their business and to get better equipment so that they can process more latrines at a lower cost and to make some beneficial use of the material.

Bio-gas made from the waste is something we can sell to local industry such as pottery kilns. Profit from the sale of gas will help the bottom line.