In September, 2017, Ixtepec suffered a major shock. After a week of very strong winds, poweful rains and river floods, the earthquakes started and they haven’t stopped. More than 7,000 houses were affected. Thanks to the previous alliance between Unitierra Oaxaca and the Ixtepecan Committee for the Defense of Life and the Territory, we immediately started to accompany and support the process they had just started along with their newly formed Reconstruction and Community Strenghtening Council towards a comprehensive reconstruction of Ixtepec.
After the emergency period on which several actions had been made (for details, you can see this video), they asked for our support to consolidate a house model proposal that was sustainable, recicled construction materials, that could recognise and preserve the dwelling habits currently existing in Ixtepec and that was viable through auto-construction. Thanks to Ambulante’s Fondo Levantemos México and the call for applications from the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City called #EsHoraDeUsarLaCabeza, we started working along with Comunal Arquitectura and with the backup of the Habitat International Coalition (HIC).
After several months of working along with the people and the social and technical team of the Reconstruction Council we made a participative research where we were able to recognize several aspects of the local way of dwelling, the way they construct their houses and identify different vernacular kinds of houses in Ixtepec. With this support and accompanied by the Reconstruction Council, the families decided to innovate with a housing proposal based on Compressed Earth Blocks (CEB) to take advantage of the local resources and to make the houses more earthquake resistant.
A year after the disasters, on October 24th and 25th, 2019, the Forum for the Reconstruction of the Habitat and the Social Subject took place in Ixtepec attended by 674 people, as well as representatives of other towns from the region with the purpose of strengthening the community subject and to contribute for a comprehensive reconstruction. After this forum, several actions and proposal happened, like the creation of Neighbourhood Committees in Ixtepec, the concertation for a workshop on guendalizá’a, the community census initiative as a tool for diagnosis and, above all, the involvement of the families as active subjects in the reconstruction process.
Thanks to all of this elaborations in the strategy driven by the Ixtepecan Committee and it’s Reconstruction Council called “A comprehensive reconstruction of the habitat in guendalizá’a (mutual help – solidarity) an with this newly generated boost, we created and supported the proposal of a pilot project with 30 families to reconstruct their houses utilizing the CEB model and with participative designs where every family has truly been involved and has been able to decide how their house should be.
With this project ready, we started looking for funding options with several organizations and institutions and among them, we presented the proposal before the National Housing Commision (CONAVI) and it was accepted. Unfortunately, the proposal is larger than what is usually approved in that institutional frame so we figured that the fundings wouldn’t be enough to be able to fullfil two essential parts of the project: the training of the CEB production working cooperative and the purchase of the CEB machine they need to do their job.
We managed to acquire a borrowed machine to start producing the CEBs and to start the training of some members of the working cooperative, but we need to give the machine back this month and the production has stopped. We think this is a very valuable initiative and an excellent opportunity for showing that there currently exists a living and real alternative for sustainable, earthquake resistant, region-adequate houses and built with the direct involvement of the people in the spirit of the guendalizá’a.
For this, we’ve decided to make a callout for your help and solidarity to be able to keep working in this initiative. Our goal is to get $300,000 mexican pesos (around $15,000 USD) to cover the expenses of buying the CEB machine and the consolidation and training of the working cooperative for its production. Any amount puts us a little bit closer to being able to continue with this project!