Monday, March 30, 2009


Sasha and Sarah run a hand-to-mouth aid group, called SOIL; they speak fluent Creole and get around on motorcycle taxis while waving back at legions of fans on every street.

I was interested in their work because it addresses two of the developing world’s greatest but least glamorous challenges. One is sanitation, for human waste in poor countries routinely spreads disease and parasites. The second is agriculture, for poor countries must increase crop yields if they are to overcome poverty and hunger.

Sasha and Sarah create dry composting toilets that turn human waste into valuable fertilizer. They say that the yearlong composting process kills the pathogens in the waste, making it safe to use the fertilizer.

Haitian farmers use virtually no fertilizer — less than a pound per acre, compared with about 90 pounds in the United States — and soils are severely depleted. But Sasha calculates that if half of Haitians’ human waste could be used as fertilizer, that would amount to a 17-fold increase in fertilizer use, more than doubling the country’s agricultural production.

Sasha and Sarah have deployed 45 of their toilets, and now they are trying to introduce a municipal composting system in Cap Haitien.
Video here.

I think this is a great idea, but I wonder how the economics work. Can this work as a stand alone business and be sustainable without donations? It was in Japan, so I think it is possible. If you could find a business model that worked, there are a ton of opportunities around the globe to implement it, as the classic scene from Slumdog Millionaire shows.

via NY Times

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