I just interviewed David Karr, one of the founders of Sebastopol, Calif.-based mate company Guayakí Yerba Mate, about the enormous success of his company and of his organic energy shot, in particular. But David told me about something that I just have to share: Guayakí is one of 12 finalists for the BBC World Challenge 2011 competition. The international competition organized by BBC World News Limited and Newsweek magazine rewards small businesses or projects that are making a real difference around the world through enterprise and innovation at the grassroots level.
The 2010 winner was The Alternative Indigenous Development Foundation Inc. (AIDFI), a non-governmental organization that uses ram pumps to harness the power of a river’s flow to literally push water uphill into remote mountain villages that have never before had clean, running water. At the time of winning World Challenge 2010, AIDFI had introduced the ram pump to more than 170 upland villages.
Guayakí has been nominated for its innovative business model, which directly connects consumers’ purchases to indigenous farming communities. When Karr and Alex Pryor started Guayakí in 1996, they wanted to share their love of the traditional South American mate, but they also pioneered a new way of doing business. As a fair trade, organic tea producer, the company not only stands for fair and sustainable farming practices, but also uses its industry clout to preserve indigenous cultures and conserve the delicate rainforests where mate is grown.
Other 2011 nominees include Indian NGO Hand in Hand, a project that works with local communitie to collect food waste and turn it into biogas to generate electricity; a project dedicated to the safe disposal of e-waste from computers and phones; a group raising the living conditions of poor, herding communities across Central Asia; and a project helping to save wildlife and increase crop yields in Nepal.
There are 12 nominees for World Challenge 2011, so check it out and vote for your favorite! You have until November 11 to cast your vote.