Antonio Paz Martinez
This profile was prepared when Antonio Paz Martinez was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1999.
The New Idea
Antonio is helping a rapidly growing network of cooperating small informal producers achieve economies of scale. By working together they can afford market analysis, get access to credit, take control of more and more of the distribution chain, and begin to ensure stable market outlets and margins -- i.e. both become more efficient and gain market power hitherto impossible. The result is more jobs; jobs with upward career possibilities (through the new organizations); jobs with more training and security; higher profits; a better chance to build equity; and the opportunity to learn broader management and organizing skills. Noting that the public supply of tortillas in central Mexico City runs out by 2:00 in the afternoon, mothers organized in one of Antonio's groups are producing the missing supply. Others raise chickens on the rooftops. Another organization he's building that distributes basic consumer goods (e.g. coffee and powdered milk) at prices even below the government's, provides the organization's own retail distribution arm for such products.A number of other products grew out of Campamentos Unidos' initial concentration on helping the tentdwellers build new homes. A growing carpentry group makes furniture inexpensively from building demolition wastes. It plans to begin moving down its distribution chain soon by opening its own warehouse.Once self-help construction cuts out the roughly 50 percent of the cost of a new home that is labor, one of the few significant ways to lower the cost of such housing further is by reducing the bill for building materials. A new group that makes low cost aluminum window frames is one example of how the virtuous circle of lowering costs can lead to more community self-help housing and on to yet lower costs.In the three years since the earthquake, Antonio has built up his core organization in one neighborhood; learned and demonstrated creative and effective methods of self-help housing design, construction, and finance; demonstrated housing-based, heavily preventative health services; created new jobs; and started a small planning office that looks beyond his immediate neighborhood. Building on this base, Antonio is now moving out to the surrounding areas and plans over the next three years to put in place an increasingly broad-based model of how the informal, small scale economy can achieve critical economies of scale.