SOIL Operations, Port-au-Prince, June, 2013

My first morning out with SOIL in Port-au-Prince, Sasha Kramer, SOIL’s co-founder and Executive Director sent me out with Jimmy Louis, SOIL’s Sanitation Coordinator and Davidson Ulysses, SOIL Drum Collection Supervisor, to the Kan de Viktim tent camp to pick up empty drums from the public toilets managed by Marieneuve Fellisant. Once we had a pick-up bed full, we took them out to SOIL’s Trutier composting site, near the Port-au-Prince municipal garbage dump. While we were there, SOIL employees Junior Bazar and Antoine Yves cleaned the drums we had brought with soap and chlorinated water and filled dry ones with bagasse, shredded sugar cane or peanut shells used in the composting process. (See posts Haitian Soil, February 9, 2011; SOIL Operations, Cap-Haitien, June, 2013; photoessays SOIL, Haiti, July, 2012; SOIL Toilet Construction, Cap-Haitien, June, 2013; SOIL Operations, Cap-Haitien, June, 2013 and SOIL Operations, Port-au-Prince, June 2013 at www.vichinterlang.com and www.oursoil.org)).

Jimmy and Davidson load empty drums.

Jimmy and Davidson load empty drums.

Later that afternoon Jimmy and I went out to the Pernier composting site, now also being used as a garden where SOIL experiments with growing various crops with and without compost.  I took some pictures of the manager and another SOIL employee shoveling compost from the bed of a truck, as well as of the garden itself. I also did a couple of headshots of the manager, on his initiative. We then briefly went back by the office before heading off to speak to the proud owner of an EcoSan household toilet in the St. Etienne II neighborhood.

Jocelyne Augustin with her daughters, Pialuzzi and Standale outside their house.

Jocelyne Augustin with her daughters, Pialuzzi and Standale outside their house.

Jocelyne Augustin, who is probably around 30 years old and has two daughters, Standale, 12, and Pialuzzi, 7, has had her toilet for six months and is satisfied with its performance. “At first I was afraid it would smell, but it doesn’t,” she said. The toilet itself is basically a laminated wood box with room beneath the seat for one five gallon bucket for solid waste, and one one-gallon jug for urine. After each use the person who just used the toilet spreads bagasse, or shredded dried sugar cane or peanut shells, over the waste to initiate the composting process and vitiate odors. SOIL changes out the buckets and replaces the bagasse every two weeks. For 100 gourdes, or about $2, a month Jocelyne believes she’s getting a fair deal to have a private indoor toilet, which she admitted was strange at first.

SOIL Executive Director Sasha Kramer with SOIL Compost Team member Antoine Yves.

SOIL Executive Director Sasha Kramer with SOIL Compost Team member Antoine Yves.

I spent the next morning, my last in Port-au-Prince before flying to Cap-Haitien for a couple of days, taking portraits of the staff in the garden. This turned out to be big fun as a combination of Sasha, Tracy Thompson, a Program Assistant from Cap Haitien who was photographing the whole scene, and the staff waiting to have their pictures taken all helped enliven the proceedings. The waiting staff in particular was intent on making the current subject laugh while being photographed, sometimes using downed palm branches and other found items as aids. I generally took three or four pictures of each person, their expressions almost always ranging from very to not very serious over the course of the series.

After the photo shoot, Jimmy and I took a fairly long drive out to Titanyen, a government run and, in fact, one of only three waste treatment plants in the country besides SOIL’s. SOIL is considering trying to get a contract with the government to compost the waste that goes to Titanyen. One problem is that there is a lot of garbage, such as various kinds of plastic and cans, in the waste, but Sasha is confident that it can be filtered out. At any rate, it would be a significant expansion of SOIL’s operations should a deal be struck.

SOIL communal toilet in Cite Soleil.

SOIL communal toilet in Cite Soleil.

I finished up my time in Port-au-Prince in Cite Soleil. Jimmy and I went out to check the SACALA/Pax Christi Ayiti garden, which was much improved from my last visit, and some communal toilets. These four toilets, each in a porta-potty shell, are each shared by three or four families, each of which has a key to the padlock on the door. SOIL replaces the drums every two weeks for a small fee, but the maintenance of the actual toilets is the responsibility of the families. The spic-and-span toilets and hand-washing station reflect the pride the families take in them, and contrast sharply with the general atmosphere of Cite Soleil.

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About vichinterlangphotojournalist

Vic Hinterlang has been a photojournalist for the past 25 years. He has worked in Central America, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, Israel and the U.S. His photos have appeared in The New York Times, Newsweek, Time, The Economist and The Texas Observer among other publications.
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