Costa emerged the overall Africa winner of the prestigious prize for working with local communities in Angola to promote conservation of freshwater resources and biodiversity hotspots that had suffered degradation linked to civil strife.
According to UNEP, Costa had forged a partnership with the Luchaze community in the eastern Angolan highlands to help reclaim their degraded natural assets including Miombo woodland and water catchments basins, in the wake of the country’s three decades of civil war that ended in 2002.
“I realized, working with the community, that if they protect the woodland areas and the rivers, and nurture its wildlife, that is fundamental to the upkeep of the whole ecosystem,” said Costa.
“But it also struck me that because of the war, these communities have lost their connection with their surroundings,” she added
Costa was studying biology when the desire to promote environmental conservation developed after an exploration deep into Angola’s Okavango delta and witnessing its declining ecological health.
The young female is credited for mobilizing local communities to reclaim tributaries at the Okavango River basin that provides a livelihood to over one million people in Angola, Namibia and Botswana.
Costa has also been leveraging visual arts and oral literature to convey environmental conservation messages to children and youth.
She is currently working on a series of graphics and books to document the natural heritage of local communities including forests and rivers to help educate the youth on the importance of conserving them.
“We depend on ecosystems for survival, and more so do poor rural communities,” said Costa.
“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,” she added.