Oscar Romo

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2014
Alter Terra


This profile was prepared when Oscar Romo was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2014.
The New Idea
Oscar Romo is enabling marginalized communities in rural Mexico to take ownership of the land they inhabit, protect their ecosystem, and improve their economic conditions by reutilizing trash and other unwanted resources around them. Facing intensive population growth and scanty infrastructure, the living conditions in these communities, compounded by environmental degradation, are poor and declining. Oscar and his organization Alter Terra find building solutions that generate no waste -- meaning they require no foreign materials for construction and no outputs go unused -- and that can be implemented by the community themselves. Furthermore, these solutions simultaneously provide new jobs and improve the environmental conditions within the communities.

Oscar works intensively with local residents on different fronts: he raises awareness of the damages of current waste management, construction, and general living practices, then works with the community to source and produce appropriate solutions. These solutions allow people to transform waste from an unwanted byproduct of daily life into a resource for solving infrastructural and economic issues. To do this, Alter Terra trains community members in diverse options for waste reutilization. Also, Alter Terra makes community leaders aware of their rights and shows them how to petition the government in order to receive them.

To ensure that these measures work permanently, Oscar has set up a Science Center to share the solutions tested in the communities and to conduct research on ecosystem damages resulting from waste and the changes that occur through instead reusing it. He then uses this data to work with municipal, state, and federal governments to create policies that protect the environment and reinforce community action. Through proven success in Mexico and now with the Center for housing open source solutions and research, Oscar and Alter Terra are poised to spread their method and translate appropriate solutions to vulnerable communities and endangered ecosystems in other parts of the world.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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