Fermin Reygadas

Ashoka Fellow
Chiapas, Mexico
Fellow Since 2014


This profile was prepared when Fermin Reygadas was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2014.
The New Idea
Fermín is addressing insufficient access to potable water by confronting the environmental, social, and economic causes of this problem. Fermín’s model improves the health and welfare of thousands of people in rural Mexican communities by providing them with access to potable water. The model has three primary innovations; it democratizes water, couples water provision with interventions that address other social and health problems in the community, and allows for communities to continue producing potable water indefinitely because of its financially self-sustainable design. Democratization of water refers to empowering community members to have total control over access to and quality of water. Meanwhile, the water provision technologies explicitly target health and economic ills generated by consuming dirty water. Finally, the economic model that Fermín proposes allows for community members to benefit financially and sustainably from these potable water systems.

Cántaro Azul democratizes water ownership by empowering communities to collect, purify, monitor, and sell their own potable water. Access to potable water is a legal right in Mexico, yet many citizens in rural areas lack access to this resource. Cántaro Azul is therefore returning potable water production capabilities to rural communities. Cántaro Azul’s communities differ from most other communities in Mexico because they are not dependent on any external water provider. Cántaro Azul’s program allows them to create totally self-sufficient potable water systems.

Fermín is also partnering with local health and education institutions to ensure that access to potable water in partner communities is economically feasible, widespread, and available everywhere at any time. Cántaro Azul understands that potable water is useless if there are still contaminated sources used in the community, so the organization aims to create a network of potable water sources. The ultimate goal is for community members to consume potable water everywhere all of the time. Cántaro Azul has different technology for each of the two consumption levels, family units and community consumption. Family units use the “Mesita Azul” (“Little Blue Table”) model while the “Nuestra Agua” (“Our Water”) model is used for more large-scale, community consumption. Both models are designed as economically sustainable solutions that allow local entrepreneurs to enter the water purification market.

Nuestra Agua is a social franchise for potable water production that makes use of each community’s human capital so that economic benefits from potable water sales accrue to the community instead of to external water providers. This approach attacks water provision problems in a way that generates income in the communities while embedding knowledge about potable water production in the community consciousness. With support from major academic and developmental institutions, Fermín has developed a holistic model that ensures the sustainability of its franchise system. Nuestra Agua also makes sure that the profits from potable water sale remain within the local economy, thus empowering people to take control of their own enterprises and their region’s natural resources.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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