Project Update: El Salvador Composting Latrine Project in Full Swing

composting latrine el salvador
A Salvadoran mother stands proudly next to her new composting latrine.

by Sebastian Africano, International Director

In use for roughly six months, the five composting latrines funded by Catapult supporters are now in full swing. Each latrine has two compartments, and soon, the first compartment will be filled, capped, and left to compost while the other is put into use. In the time it takes to fill the second compartment, the first will have composted into a “humanure” to be used by families as a soil amendment – great for fruit trees and certain cash crops. This is the closed loop that many of us in the world of ecological sanitation strive to be part of, and for those without basic sewage services, it’s a huge step up from an unsanitary pit latrine.

Get personal

“It is gratifying that our work in El Salvador through Trees, Water & People leaves a trail of impact in communities and even public and private institutions and service organizations who use our support to develop projects that benefit the target population of their programs.” – Armando Hernandez, Project Director (translated by Sebastian Africano)

Risks and challenges

For anyone, the prospect of storing and then handling your family’s sewage is conceptually daunting. This is likely the biggest hump to get over when implementing a composting latrine project – getting people comfortable with managing poop. This is where appropriate design comes in – if a composting latrine is well designed, you shouldn’t smell anything, you shouldn’t see flies, and you should find nothing resembling anything but soil when you crack it open one year after first use. Getting people to that first “aha” moment is crucial in getting them to cross that conceptual hump and use their latrine year after year.

What we’ve learned

Visiting and monitoring a composting latrine program, or any ecological sanitation program, requires you to enter and speak composed and comfortably to families about some of their most personal household activities. It’s always educational, and it’s a great exercise in humility and in finding commonality with people who live in a completely different reality than you do. The important message to convey is that you’re there to learn and help rather than judge, and more often than not, families are welcoming and interested in hearing and discussing your observations. Sincere communication and education across cultural and societal lines are so important in our work.


Next steps

There is a great need for sanitation services in rural El Salvador. Working with our partners on the ground, we will continue to look for the funds needed to build more composting pit latrines for communities in need. In addition to our fundraising efforts, we will continue to monitor and evaluate the latrines that have already been constructed.

If you would like to support this project please visit our website to make a donation today!

Notes from the Field: Haitian Tree Nursery Thriving

by Monica Roy and Claire Frohman, Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods (SOIL)

haiti tree nursery

It’s January and the slightly cooler weather has made the SOIL farm in northern Haiti a very pleasant place to be! The nursery is as green as ever: full of avocado, cashew, orange, breadfruit, moringa, and mangrove trees. We have started collaborations with local community groups to plant the first batch of trees. This is the first community reforestation event of many more to come!

8 - Contemplating projectsIn addition to getting ready for community planting days, the SOIL nursery staff are also busy setting up a tracking system to document where all the trees are going to be planted. This system will allow for easy follow-up and tree care support as necessary over the coming year, as the trees get established in the ground, and will continue to do so in the many years to come, as the trees begin to green the mountainsides of Haiti!

All the trees will be planted using rich, organic compost generated by SOIL’s eco-toilets from the urban Cap-Haitien community of Shada. In order to celebrate the SOIL “poop loop” cycle of toilets to compost to tree planting, tours are being organized of the SOIL farm for Shada’s eco-toilet users.

close the loop and transform the poop
Click on photo to enlarge.

We’re excited to provide the people of this urban community the chance to come out and see the positive impact that their toilets are having on Haiti’s environment and even more excited by the prospect of bringing our project full circle: where there is enough space and motivation, we are planning to plant some trees from our nursery in and near the households of our toilet users in Shada!

Stay tuned for more updates and thank you to all the generous donors who have supported this project.

haiti tree nursery

Update: “10,000 Trees for Haiti” Project Funded

haiti reforestationThank you to everyone who donated to the 10,000 Trees for Haiti project! With your help, we will be able to continue a very strong partnership with Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods (SOIL), our Haitian NGO partner on the ground. Together, we will keep the tree nursery in Labadee, Haiti going through 2013, providing nutritious fruit trees to local farmers throughout the year. Not only do these trees provide fruit for their families, they also provide extra income to farmers who can sell the produce at market. In addition, these trees will diversify crops, improve soil quality, and help keep local watersheds healthy.

The best part about this project: all the trees are planted with “humanure” from SOIL’s dry composting latrines! The 10,000 Trees for Haiti project is “closing the loop and transforming the poop” in Haiti. This truly is sustainable agriculture at it’s finest.

close the loop and transform the poop

We will continue to provide you with updates from the nursery throughout the year, so stay tuned!

Happy World Toilet Day!

Did you know that 1 in 3 women worldwide live without a toilet?  In Haiti, only 10% of rural populations and less than 25% of those in cities have access to adequate sanitation facilities, by far the lowest coverage in the Western Hemisphere.

We are working with Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods (SOIL) in Haiti to “close the loop and transform the poop”! This project uses “humanure” from SOIL’s EcoSan composting toilets to fertilize thousands of fruit trees that will be sold to local farmers for soil improvement projects and as a nutritious source of food. We need your help to fund this project. Every donation you make will be matched dollar for dollar!

Click photo to enlarge

Matching Campaign: Help Plant 10,000 Trees in Haiti!

trees for Haiti

“It is my vision that Haiti will have too many SOIL toilets producing compost and we’ll have to start exporting the compost to the Dominican Republic and to all the other countries of the world!”
– Daniel Tillias of Pax Christi Ayiti

Last year, Trees, Water & People partnered with Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods (SOIL) and Jam Cruise passengers to plant thousands of fruit tree seeds in northern Haiti using SOIL’s EcoSan compost (human manure, aka “humanure”). These trees have matured and are now being planted. But, local community organizations and farmers’ cooperatives have asked us to do even more to help make the mountainsides of Haiti green with trees again.

We envision planting 10,000 more seedlings, hosting tree-planting days, and creating an agricultural education center that can host EcoSan workshops, agricultural exchanges, and research. The tree seedlings planted through this effort will be sold at an affordable, subsidized rate to local famers and cooperatives who will then plant them in the mountains of northern Haiti.

With your help we can make this vision a reality! Please donate today to help us plant 10,000 more trees in Haiti.

Learn more and donate >>