Africa is saving the world’s last wild hotspot

The prestigious Young Champions of the Earth prize, powered by Covestro, is awarded every year by UN Environment to young environmentalists between the ages of 18 and 30, for their outstanding ideas to protect the environment.

Africa is saving the world’s last wild hotspot

Author: Naseem Sheikh

Twenty-nine-year-old wildlife ethno-conservationist Adjany Costa from Angola has won the Young Champions of the Earth Prize for her efforts to conserve precious water and biodiversity hotspots in Angola.

As world leaders gather at the UN Headquarters in New York for the Climate Action Summit and General Assembly in the coming days, environment and climate will be at the lead topics of negotiations. Youth around the world are already taking action, because there is no time to lose.

Costa’s solution is to work with the Luchaze community in the Eastern Angolan highlands, threatened by unsustainable livelihood practices following the country’s three-decade-long civil war which ended in 2002, as well as clearing of Miombo woodland once landmines are removed. 

As communities return to the land, protecting the Miombo woodland which traps water and nurtures rich biodiversity is critical to protect environmental degradation.

The Okavango River Basin is a vital ecosystem and part of the largest freshwater wetland in Southern Africa. Over a million people depend on the basin, shared by Angola, Namibia and Botswana.

Its delta, in Botswana, is home to an abundance of iconic wildlife including one of the world’s largest elephant populations. The Cuito River is a tributary to the Okavango Delta, maintaining its water levels and fundamental to the upkeep of the whole ecosystem.

We depend on ecosystems for survival, and more so do poor rural communities. We must be mindful about how our way of living impacts our environment and work with indigenous communities that depend on them to improve their livelihoods through conservation.

A global jury, made up of Covestro Chief Executive Officer Markus Steilemann, UN Environment Programme’s Deputy Executive Director Joyce Msuya, VICE News Tonight’s science and climate change correspondent Arielle Duhaime-Ross, 

UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth Jayathma Wickramanayake and Kathy Calvin, President and Chief Executive Officer of the United Nations Foundation, selected the winners among 35 regional finalists from over 1,000 applicants.

Adjany is one of seven winners from Africa, North America, Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific, Europe and West Asia. The winners will receive their award during the Champions of the Earth Ceremony in New York City on 26 September, coinciding with the annual United Nations General Assembly meeting and the Climate Action Summit.