Monday, November 14, 2011

National Geographic Daily News: Human Waste to Revive Haitian Farmland?



article by Christine Dell'Amore

photo courtesy of Sasha Kramer

Published October 26, 2011

A new type of public toilet is helping people in Haiti make fertilizer from human waste, a project that may someday revive the country's degraded farmland, curb disease, and create jobs.

Since 2006 the U.S. nonprofit Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods (SOIL) has been installing public toilets in Haiti, where 80 percent of the population has no access to sanitation.

Most Haitians are forced to dispose of their waste in waterways, plastic bags, or even abandoned buildings, according to SOIL. Any existing toilets are often poorly designed, with waste flushing straight into rivers or groundwater.

Such practices mean that human feces easily get into the water supply, which can cause waterborne diseases such as cholera, currently at epidemic levels in the country, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

More than 6,000 people have died and 420,000 have been sickened since cholera broke out in Haiti in October 2010.

"Sanitation was the most successful health intervention in the modern world," said SOIL co-founder and soil ecologist Sasha Kramer. But in Haiti, "poop getting into water is the leading cause of death."

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