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Ron Rivera was the Coordinator of Potters Peace from 1988 until 2008.  His work began by identifying every potter in Nicaragua and assessing their needs.  Before coming to PFP, Ron had built a substantial understanding of the sociology of sustainable development by working in Bolivia, Ecuador, Panama and Mexico and it was this unique knowledge that made it possible for him to build the PFP pottery program. In Nicaragua he worked with rural potters to improve their production methods, develop new designs and locate new markets outside their communities.

Ron had long been aware of the ceramic water filter designed by a Guatemalan chemist, Fernando Mazariegos, and when, in 1998, Hurricane Mitch (the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the central and south American basin) devastated the region and seriously affected water supplies, Ron’s focus became making ceramic water filters and training others in order to meet the need of clean, safe, drinking water in the country.

Ron worked with many volunteers, including Manny Hernandez, a professor at Northern Illinois University, who worked with Ron to develop the first press and the first set of molds and thus standardize the shape and the filtration rate of the filter. This was a small but significant solution to getting an affordable point-of-use water purification device effectively to the poorest of the poor.

Ron also put in place a procedure for setting up ceramic water filter factories in developing regions by partnering with organizations on the ground. He saw this work as his contribution  to achieving the UN Millennium goal—to halve the number of people without access to potable water. Ron established 30 factories between 1998 and 2008. In July of 2008 he travelled to Nigeria to help set up what turned out to be the last filter factory of his life. He contracted falciparum malaria in Nigeria and died on September 3rd, 2008 in Managua.

Ron’s goal was to build 100 filter factories in his lifetime and Potters for Peace is dedicated to working towards that goal and beyond. Ron’s legacy lives on in the work PFP continues to do with the ceramic pot filter. As Ron would say, “It’s all about bringing clean, safe drinking water to the developing world.”

Ron Rivera mixing clay at a filter factory in Managua

Ron mixing clay at a filter factory in Managua

Ron Rivera at mould
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Ron holding a training session at a filter factory in Colombia.

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