Dynamic Regions

Kathryn Pozak   

The housing deficit in southern countries is increasing steadily, as is migration to urban areas, while imports either from abroad or from urban centers remain the order of the day in the construction materials sector.

Local production of construction materials is a counter point to these trends. Not only does this keep money circulating within the region through creation of jobs and sales of a needed product, it also contributes toward sustainability through the transfer of knowledge and skills required to produce the materials.

In the modern world many countries are increasingly becoming consumers of what others produce and dependent upon tariffs, trade and the whims of high finance. However, if we can decentralize production and place knowledge in the hands of people, they can become the designers of their own destinies.

In Latin America, from the simple beginnings of a few pilot plants at the end of the eighties, there are now well over 600 productive Micro Concrete Roofing (MCR) tile workshops scattered throughout twelve countries. At the end of 2002 the accumulated production was about 23 million square meters of roofs, which implies around 350,000 roofs.

Client surveys carried out in Honduras, Ecuador, Guatemala and El Salvador reveal that most of these workshops sell to a clientele within a radius of 20 kilometers. When one considers the number of jobs created through these workshops, combined with the great number of roofs, the dynamism injected into local economies becomes evident.

Regional and local markets exist in Guatemala, Ecuador, Honduras, El Salvador. The many productive workshops in other countries such as Columbia, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama are contributing to MCR taking its position in the roofing materials segment and market regions are developing.

Workshops in all these countries are independent businesses, run either by individuals, families, or organizations and groups. They are loosely linked through EcoSouth, The Network for an Ecologically and Economically Sustainable Habitat, wherein local coordinators have attended the producers by providing training and followup. National and regional seminars have brought producers together to discuss their experiences and sometimes even plan common marketing approaches.

As years pass and more and more houses are roofed with MCR, the decentralized local production of this elegant, enduring, and economical roofing material will continue and intensify the local dynamism.

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Martín Meléndez
Civil Engineer
Spanish and English
Microconcrete roofing tiles (MCR), CP 40 (alternative cement), adobe, tapial, burnt clay bricks, social organization, workshop planning for MCR and alternative cement, setup and implementation of housing projects, disaster prevention in construction


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