BY ROB SIRRINE
Special to the Record-Eagle
---- — Even before the devastating earthquake that hit Haiti two years ago killing more than 220,000 people and displacing millions, the ecological and humanitarian situation in Haiti was dire. Erosion and topsoil loss resulting from extensive deforestation had destroyed over 2/3 of Haiti's once fertile farmland. Eighty percent of Haitians live in poverty and 1 in 3 children suffer from malnutrition. In addition to chronic hunger, water-borne illness from untreated human waste and pollutants further exacerbates the situation. Today, only 16% of rural Haitians and 50% of those in Haiti's cities have access to improved sanitation facilities. In spite of the grim outlook, there are organizations working to make a difference in Haiti that could use your support this holiday season.
Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods (SOIL) is a US 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to protecting soil resources, empowering communities and transforming wastes into resources in Haiti. SOIL provides emergency ecological sanitation services to thousands of displaced persons through the use of composting toilets, which turn waste into rich agricultural compost. SOIL's work is a win-win for Haiti. By improving soil fertility, farmers are able to increase agricultural yields and reduce malnutrition. By expanding ecological sanitation services into the broader community through outreach efforts in 2013, they will help reduce the occurrence of water-borne diseases as well.
The Traverse City based Utopia Foundation has committed to help SOIL execute its mission of empowering communities and transforming waste into valuable composted soil. Utopia Foundation will match dollar for dollar, every donation up to a total of $7,500 made to SOIL through Utopia Foundation through March 31, 2013. To learn more about SOIL please visit: http://www.oursoil.org/you-can-help/soil-gifts/
To give to SOIL please visit: http://www.utopiafound.org/gifts/ecological-sanitation-training-and-composting-toilets-haiti
Dr. Rob Sirrine is a Community Food Systems Educator with MSU Extension. He was previously a Land Institute Fellow with SOIL's Executive Director, Dr. Sasha Kramer.