How can digitalization make a difference in solid waste management in Haiti?

By Pierre ANTOINE, Head of experimentation. Co-author / Translator: Borja Lopetegui Gonzalez, Communication Unit.

21 janvier 2022

© Adobe Stock / sdecoret

The Covid-19 pandemic has significantly impacted the way we live and interact with our fellow human beings. Digital transformation then presents itself as an alternative to deal with the restrictions resulting from the strategy of preventing or combating its spread. The management of waste resulting directly from human activities is not exempt from this and requires different approaches to better adapt to an ever-changing world. This blog attempts to address some examples of the use of digital tools to better manage solid waste in Haiti.

State of play of digital in Haiti

The Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Sector is expanding in Haiti. More and more Haitians are turning to these technologies for professional activities as well as for routine tasks. The data published in January 2021 by Hootsuite and shown in graph 1 show that more than half of the Haitian population actively uses a mobile phone and 37% have Internet access. Social media are becoming more and more popular as 20% of Haitian society uses them.

Source: designed with data from Hootsuite, 2021

After comparing graphs 1 and 2 (below), it can be observed that the use of these new technologies is growing despite a difficult socio-political context and a background of health crisis caused by the prevalence of the Covid-19 pandemic in the country, along with the restriction measures that followed. The number of subscribers to mobile telephone services has increased by 3.1%, those who use the Internet has increased from 21.02% to 37.31%, which represents an increase of 16.3%. The use of social media follows this very same trend, with 15% of new users in January 2021. These data give a glimpse of a fertile ground for the adoption of digitalization in Haiti. A detailed report on the growth of the new technologies sector in Haiti is accessible here.

Source: designed with secondary data from Hootsuite, 2021

Overview of the complexity of the solid waste management system in Haiti

The lab's work has shed light on the complexity of the solid waste management system in Haiti. Indeed, the eagerness to learn how to better guide decision-making leads us to consider a multitude of actors with divergent interests that come into play in the definition of the latter. The diagram below, designed with the information provided by the participants in the laboratory's last meaning-making workshop, represents the main stakeholders and their direct or indirect relationship with solid waste found in the environment or on the roadways of traffic routes in the country. A a result of this, it can be observed the great heterogeneity of these actors, which illustrates the difficulties in finding solutions through a single action. Through this diagram, we also understand that the issue of solid waste management goes beyond our borders and involves other regulations that do not necessarily come under the jurisdiction of local authorities. As we learn, we analyze the signals of change projected by the communities in an innovative approach to sustainability. Thus, recent technical progress in digital technology appears as a laudable alternative to face the complex challenges of development, among which is the management of solid waste.

Waste related stakeholder graph

A digital platform to raise awareness on solid waste management

The United Nations System, in support of the Haitian state, builds on the advantages of digital technology to raise community awareness and fight against bad practices in terms of environmental protection and solid waste management.

To understand the complexity of solid waste management in Haiti, let's take a look at the ecosystem of state institutions that is responsible for regulating it and ensuring its smooth running. Initially, the main responsibility for solid waste management in cities lies with the town halls. But, the SMCRS (Metropolitan Solid Waste Collection Service) created by the decree of March 3, 1981, comes in support of the latter. As its name suggests, this service was limited only to the metropolitan area comprising the municipalities of Delmas, Port-au-Prince, Carrefour, Pétion-Ville, Kenskoff, Tabarre, Cité Soleil and Croix-des-Bouquets. Subsequently, the law of August 9, 2017, published in the official journal "Le Moniteur" on September 21 of the same year, replaced the SMCRS with the SNGRS (National Solid Waste Management Service). Unlike its predecessor, this program extends solid waste management services nationwide.

Despite legislative decrees creating these central-state support structures for town halls, solid waste represents a major challenge for political decision-makers. Moreover, the recurrence of natural disasters further complicates or hinders the effects of the interventions of both national and international actors. For example, the earthquake of January 12, 2010 (particularly in the West of the country) followed by that of August 24, 2021 (in the Great South) resulting in the destruction of habitats and the massive displacement of populations provide evidence of the impact of natural disasters on solid waste management in Haiti.

The UN is aware of the complexity of the problem of solid waste management and works in collaboration with state and non-state actors for innovative solutions. Building on this momentum, the UN Environment, together with the Haitian state and some civil society actors (FEM and ONQEV), have launched an online platform (environmental information system) bringing together data on solid waste and the consequences of inappropriate management of the latter on the health of Haitians, the pollution of marine and terrestrial ecosystems and social well-being in general. This platform brings together a wide range of data likely to be of interest to anyone concerned in one way or another by the issue of waste management and its effects on the environment. The figure below shows the steps to follow to access it by clicking on this link.

Note: By following the link, the entry portal can be accessed, which is presented as shown below. Please click on the arrow to access the various analysis indicators on the platform.

Community involvement and waste management

ECHO Haiti is a local community organization headquartered in the north of the country, more specifically in the country's second city. During our recent solution mapping work in this city, the Accelerator lab team within UNDP Haiti contacted this organization to take a closer look at its innovations regarding liquid and solid waste management.

Indeed, ECHO Haiti is conducting an experiment with 1,115 households in the north of the country. Ecological toilets are installed in such households to collect human excreta. Households pay in return a monthly amount of 375 gourdes (approximately USD 3.75) for this excreta collection service.

These excreta, mixed with peanut shells and sugar cane bagasse, make it possible to produce high quality compost. According to its Senior Manager, Romel Toussaint, the “AVANSE” project bought big amounts of such compost. He currently diversifies his client base by supplying this fertilizer to some stores that offer multiple goods and services.

As shown in the images below, the UNDP Haiti laboratory team visited the workshop on compost and ecological toilet manufacturing and found that these two innovative initiatives can bring a new approach to waste management. Therefore, the laboratory team is analyzing the prospects of collaborating with this organization with a view to including some of its initiatives in its portfolio of innovative solutions.

Photos of field visits in a composting workshop, North of Haiti, December 2021

Before COVID-19, ECHO Haiti went door-to-door to collect the monthly fees paid by households for the  collection service. Since the end of 2020, he has been turning to digital transformation to facilitate the payment of these costs and limit physical contact. To do this, it relies on a mobile money service offered by a local mobile phone company. Users of ECHO's ecological toilets have subscribed to this service. At the end of the month, they only have to click to pay the fees to ECHO.

Implications for the UNDP Haiti Acceleration Lab

These two examples, among many others that may exist in Haiti, show that digital transformation can be a solution to better address complex development challenges at the dawn of the 21st century. Therefore, it aligns with the approach of the laboratory which relies mainly on collective intelligence and new technologies as ways and means to face these challenges. In addition, the laboratory works with actors from all walks of life and constantly explores both official and unofficial data sources in order to find local solutions that are better adapted.

As shown in the diagram below, the work of the laboratory is framed in a dilemma characterized by what "we know that we don't know" and "what we don't know that we know", which limits our understanding of where the system of interest is headed: here, the solid waste management system in Haiti. However, behind this dilemma lies innovative ideas that could make a difference. So, as a laboratory, we reiterate our active involvement in finding the interconnections between innovative ideas and between the actors behind them in order to be able to influence the future of the solid waste management system in Haiti.

Different pathways possible in which the system can evolve


Haiti shows interesting prospects for the adoption of local innovative solutions in order to accelerate the achievement of the 2030 agenda. In this vein, our work of finding meaning and mapping solutions to solid waste strengthens our understanding of the complexity of the challenge related to their management and allows the analysis of both suspected and unsuspected issues that should be taken into account to better influence decision-making. The experimentation stage that will follow will make it possible to assess the effectiveness of these solutions with a view to promotion for future scaling up.

As a result, 2022 will be a pivotal year in the existence of the laboratory, which is actively working to define a portfolio of innovative solutions in this perspective of experimentation. In addition, the effort for a better understanding of the solid waste management system continues with the conduct of a national survey very soon. Therefore, the laboratory wants to remain faithful to its philosophy, which can be summed up as follows: "we continually learn from the challenges to act better and to orient ourselves towards innovative solutions that are capable of boosting development in Haiti».