Sri Lankan firm triumphs in BCC World's competition

MUMBAI: A Sri Lankan firm which transforms elephant dung into eco-friendly paper, has won BBC World challenge 2006. This rewards businesses and projects that put something back into their communities.

‘Maximus’, based in Kegalle at the foothills of Sri Lanka’s central mountainous region, beat more than 800 other projects from 120 countries to win World Challenge 2006 and a US$20,000 grant from Shell. The company uses a range of unusual products, including elephant dung and bark from banana trees, to create a line of papyrus-like paper.

The notion’s far from quixotic. Sri Lanka is home to some 3,000 elephants, whose numbers are dwindling - due to poaching and conflict with farmers, who view them as very hungry pests.

To change that view, ‘Maximus’ created its “Peace Paper” scheme, which hires rural people to collect elephant dung, providing a financial incentive that helps reduce poverty and build tolerance. When cleaned, pulped and pressed, cellulose-rich elephant dung creates a beautifully textured, papyrus-like paper.

Part of the company’s profits goes back to the local elephant orphanage. More than 33,000 people around the world voted online in the World Challenge 2006 competition - run by BBC World and Newsweek, the weekly global current affairs magazine, in association with Shell. The competition searches for, highlights and rewards individuals or groups that have used enterprise and innovation to the benefit of local communities.

‘Maximus’ was voted as the winner while the two runners-up, which each received US$10,000, were ‘Cards from Africa’ in Rwanda and ‘NGO Dalit’ from Bangladesh.

The three companies were presented with their prizes at a special awards ceremony, filmed by BBC World, in The Hague. The World Challenge 2006 Awards ceremony will be shown on BBC World on 16 and 17 December.

BBC World Challenge began in 2005. BBC World, Newsweek and Shell have continued and expanded the competition into 2006. Nominations for the 2006 competition closed on 7 June. 816 nominations were received - a 79 per cent increase on last year’s nominations of 457.

This year’s competition attracted the greatest numbers of nominees from India (159), Philippines (56), Nigeria (47), USA (34), Kenya (32), South Africa (32), England (20) and Uganda (20).

12 finalists were chosen by a panel of expert judges as the best examples of community-based business, development or environmental projects. Their stories featured on BBC World globally in October and November 2006 and the channel’s 65 million weekly viewers were then invited to vote online for the most commendable and inspirational project.

Newsweek also mirrored the programmes’ content in a six-part series of advertorials about the 12 nominees, aimed at driving its readers to the online voting site. The campaign reached 1.5 million weekly readers across Europe, Asia and Latin America.

BBC World CEO Richard Sambrook says, “I have been amazed by the huge number of entries we’ve received for the World Challenge 2006, and equally inspired at the quality and diversity of the projects. This competition has again been extraordinarily successful, capturing the imagination - and the votes - of many thousands of BBC World viewers around the globe. We are delighted to be involved with such an inspiring project for the second year running and extend our congratulations to Maximus.”

Newsweek executive VP and worldwide publisher Gregory J. Osberg says, “World Challenge 2006 is about getting involved and making a difference at a grass roots level. Now in its second successful year, this global competition provides a forum for rewarding innovators who are actively seeking solutions to problems like poverty, hunger and pollution in the communities in which they live. Newsweek congratulates this year's winner, Maxim

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