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Aug 24, 2018

Reconstruction of traditional productive spaces

Construction of Venancia
Construction of Venancia's kitchen as a workshop

When we arrived to Oaxaca, after the earthquakes in September 2017, we developed the Comprehensive and Social Habitat Reconstruction project along with different communities in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region.

As a result of the first phase of diagnoses, we decided to focus on the construction of the bases of comixcal ovens, used to produce a kind of tortilla toast called totopos, which is one of the main economic activities of the women in the region.

This way, we seek to contribute to the reactivation of local economy, while the process of housing reconstruction advances, as well as the construction of the first Center of Arts and Crafts (CAC or CAO, in the Spanish abbreviation) in Ciudad Ixtepec.

Strengthening productive activities

As part of this need to strengthen local productive activities that collapsed due to the earthquakes, we also proposed to build 34 bread traditional ovens, used for self-consumption as much as for commerce. In july, we started with ten people who have a wood shed where the constructive process wouldn’t be affected by the rainy season. Until now, three bread ovens have been finished.

At the same time, we started the construction of kitchens, a productive and family space used mostly by women. The first one was concluded with Venancia and her family, process that served as a hands-on workshop for other women to contribute to the construction by preparing the mud to fill into the walls, and to learn the constructive technique in practice, since they have already observed the process in the CAC construction. This working dynamic constitutes the second school-kitchen done in the region, since the first one was built in the municipality of San Francisco del Mar in the beginning of 2018.

All of this has resulted from a second phase of diagnoses, developed in May, when we could identify that, although most of the kitchens in Ixtepec are still affected, some of them have been rebuilt with perishable or industrial materials, which increase thermal sensation inside, in temperatures that raise up to 45 degrees Celsius, and their structures are not safe, so women lack of a secure and appropriate space.

After this, we implemented workshops of collaborative design in Ciudad Ixtepec, but also at the municipalities of Niltepec and Santa María Xadani, where participants proposed the materials and shape needed for the kitchens to be fresh, ventilated and comfortable. At the end, they decided to build with mud, a tile roof and bricks for the floor.

This is how we started working with 42 women in Ixtepec and Niltepec that are willing to do collaborative work in the construction of their own kitchen, as well as supporting others’ building process. Besides, 22 women in Santa María Xadani will participate in the reconstruction of traditional comixcal ovens.

Traditional techniques to diminish deforestation

Along with the people involved in the project, we decided to use the technique of bahareque cerén for kitchens and the CAC, since it recovers the tradition of building with wood and earth. In this case, the use of trunks (from young trees) is substituted with sticks, which contributes to diminish the severe deforestation in the region —that we identified throughout the project— since it only requires trimming, instead of cutting down the whole tree.

This technique comes from El Salvador, and its resistance to earthquakes has been proven in different regions of Latin America, so it has been adapted by the technical team of Cooperación Comunitaria AC to resist the meteorological conditions of the Isthmus.

In the Center of Arts and Crafts, we have led several workshops with voluntaries from different parts of the country, and people from the community, so they can learn the reinforced technique of bahareque cerén (a framework of wooden rods with a stone base, covered with mud and a tile roof) and contribute to the construction.

Advancement in the housing reconstruction

In the case of housing reconstruction, our team led 30 structure reinforcements —from 44 planned— that provide resistance against the strong earthquakes and winds in the region. Also, from 18 constructions of traditional houses proposed, 7 are already in the roofing process to be concluded.

As part of this process, many activities of mutual help have been developed with the participants of the project to support the building advance of each others' houses, such as making natural paint and sealer for the bricks and walls. We also visited the finished houses for each family to share their experience during the process, and for others who haven’t finished to solve their concerns.

Construction process of Martina
Construction process of Martina's bread oven
Collaborative design workshop for kitchens
Collaborative design workshop for kitchens
CAC recovers traditional earth construction
CAC recovers traditional earth construction
Mutual help for housing reconstruction
Mutual help for housing reconstruction
Jun 4, 2018

Finishing the Indigenous Education Center

Soil constructions workshop in the new center
Soil constructions workshop in the new center

Dear Partners and donosrs, 

So far, we have concluded successfully the constructive process of the first Indigenous Education Center on reinforced adobe technique in La Cienega Community. The second one has started in Ojo de Agua, and until now we are on the foundation stage. Adobes has been produced by the community and are ready to be placed to raise up the walls, but we must wait for the raining season to finish.

Meanwhile, we are doing some other activities for capacity-building, such as Workshops for “Secure houses” where we work to increase the consciousness related with constructive skills and revalue adobe as a resistant material. There is so far a reach of 650 people who have known the technique of reinforced adobe around the region.

Furthermore, we are doing outreach activities through the broadcast of an awareness campaign we produced, by a local radio station in Spanish and local language (Me’phaa). We made radio clips addressing the following topics: Deforestation effects and prevention measures; Cause and solution for landslides; Secure settlements thru Adobe reinforced houses; Right to housing; The use of agrochemicals and alternatives. In addition, through this period, we settled new alliances with other community radio stations, looking forward to reaching more people.

On April and May, we had the great opportunity to link two projects where we are implementing currently, as we accompanied the exchange between a group of stakeholders (Tzeltales) whom we are working with in Chilón, Chiapas and the group of Guerrero, as part of the Self-construction project for the Training Centers in Adobe for the sharing of constructive knowledge in adobe and products in agroecology, respectively. So, on April, people from Chiapas came to Guerrero in order to impart training workshops of organic and ecological farming, where also we imparted the workshop with the teaching kit of CraTerre, research laboratory for earthen constructions.

The continued construction in the Mountain of Guerrero has allowed to strengthen the housing model through new proposals in the architectural program and to promote consciousness of constructive techniques, local materials, environmental impacts and social habitat production.

We thank you for your generous contribution to the communities of the Mountain of Guerrero. 

Cooperación Comunitaria´s team

Indigenous Education Center of reinforced adobe
Indigenous Education Center of reinforced adobe
During hands on soil constructions workshop
During hands on soil constructions workshop
Guerreos community receiving producersfromChiapas
Guerreos community receiving producersfromChiapas
Guerrero and Chiapas communities sharing knowledge
Guerrero and Chiapas communities sharing knowledge
Builder promoter sharing his experience
Builder promoter sharing his experience
Starting Ojo de Aguas Center
Starting Ojo de Aguas Center
Tzeltales from Chiapas visiting the Center
Tzeltales from Chiapas visiting the Center
May 29, 2018

Comprehensive Habitat Reconstruction Project

Bases of comixcal ovens
Bases of comixcal ovens

On the basis of the damage and vulnerability diagnoses, Cooperación Comunitaria AC implemented the Social and Comprehensive Habitat Reconstruction Project in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Oaxaca, that includes reconstruction of housing, bread and comixcal ovens, and kitchens; as well as constructions of new housing, school-kitchens, and of the first center of arts and trades in Ciudad Ixtepec. From the studies on housing and kitchen of Ikoot and Binnizá indigenous groups, all of this structures recover the traditional istmeña [regional] characteristics and techniques to be included into a reinforced system —specific for each case— against the earthquakes and strong winds in the region.

In March and April, 50 bases of comixcal oven [used to make a kind of tortilla toast] were built in four neighborhoods. This process was developed through workshops with the families that are part of the Project along with the labour, which encouraged the assimilation of the reinforced constructive system, the appropriation of the recent-built oven, and the comprehension of collaborative work between neighbors and with Cooperación Comunitaria.

For the construction of kitchens, we have developed 50 diagnoses and several collaborative design workshops, where women revealed how much time they dedicate to produce food in the oven, and how important is the kitchen as a space used for production, for family gathering and for transmission of knowledge. This has allowed us to identify how the proposal of the kitchen could adapt to each of the people’s needs and preferences.

In addtion, Cooperación Comunitaria made a proposal with bahareque cerén [an earth constructive system], which also resists climatological conditions in the region, that it is being used in the construction of the first center of arts and trades of Ixtepec; in this case, logs have been replaced with sticks to reduce impact on deforestation. This traditional technique has also been proposed for the kitchens, since it recovers earth construction and the use of local materials. However, it is currently out of use, so this has implied many difficulties when looking for the materials, and for skilled labor with this knowledge.

Along with the kitchens and ovens, the project to build new housing and reinforce the ones that were damaged, in which traditional istmeña houses have been rescued from demolition in cases were they could be repaired, reinforced against earthquakes and strong winds in the region and inhabited. Currently,  44 houses are in process for being reinforced, and 18 new ones are in the process of construction.

Also, at the end of last year the construction of a kitchen-school was concluded in San Francisco del Mar —a community of the Ikoot indigenous group—, conceived as a model for traditional kitchens that can be replicated in other communities of the same group. Subsequently, another kitchen-school will be built based on the traditional characteristics of the Binnizá indigenous group in Ixtepec, for the moment.

Such processes have meant a challenge for everyone because of the constant increase of material and manufacture prices and later on because the raises of tempeture of 40 centigrades degrees that make people tired, but it has allowed relationships between neighbors to strengthen and for them to assume collaboration as a tool to work as a community for the reconstruction.

Construction process of a base of comixcal oven
Construction process of a base of comixcal oven
Collaborative design workshop for kitchens
Collaborative design workshop for kitchens
Workshop: daily activities in kitchen thru photos
Workshop: daily activities in kitchen thru photos
First center of arts and trades of Ixtepec
First center of arts and trades of Ixtepec
Construction process of center of arts and trades
Construction process of center of arts and trades
Workshop for construction of bases of ovens
Workshop for construction of bases of ovens
Construction of reinforced traditional housing
Construction of reinforced traditional housing
Traditional houses reconstruction & reinforcement
Traditional houses reconstruction & reinforcement

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