By Lee Davies
In our new Saturday Series, we interview inspiring people our readers have nominated. These people are working on the frontlines to improve the global food and agricultural systems. Want to nominate someone? E-mail your suggestions to Danielle Nierenberg!
Name: Gigi Pomerantz
Bio: Gigi Pomerantz is the executive director of Youthaiti, a nonprofit promoting ecological sanitation in Haiti. Ms. Pomerantz founded the organization in 2008.
Why did you begin work in Haiti? And what led you to focus on sanitation?
My work in Haiti began in 2006 when I traveled on a medical mission to the rural village of Duchity in Grand’Anse. During our first day there we met with local teachers, health agents, and the one physician who lived in the village to do a ‘health needs assessment.’ They listed sanitation as one of their top five priorities for improving health.
For the next five days we saw 1,400 patients and treated every single one for intestinal worms and at least 50 percent for other gastrointestinal problems, including a lot of diarrhea. It became clear to me that this need was real. As a nurse practitioner, my focus has always been on prevention, and sanitation is prevention at its most basic level. Prevent the water that you drink from becoming contaminated, and you save the lives of millions of children who die from childhood diarrhea.
After the completion of Youthaiti’s projects, how will communities continue these sanitation programs?
We are introducing several methods of ecological sanitation that should be sustainable for even the poorest of the poor. Currently we encourage two methods of household sanitation: the Arborloo shallow pit composting latrine, and the Humanure bucket toilet. An Arborloo costs about $60 to construct with a concrete squat plate and a movable shelter. A Humanure bucket toilet could cost as little as $2.50 if they just squat over it, or $15 with a toilet seat. Both methods create compost. Arborloos compost directly in the ground, where a tree can be planted. Humanure toilets provide humanure, which can triple or quadruple garden yields and increase family income.
We also have built 17 community urine-diverting toilets to serve schools and other gather places, such as markets and bus stops.