Adjany Costa
Adjany Costa shares the wonders of the extraordinary, yet fragile, Okavango ecosystem with the Mbunda people of Luchazes, Angola.

Adjany Costa


rebuilding after civil war – instigating curiosity

meet adjany

Adjany Costa, an ethno-conservationist who currently serves as the Advisor for Environmental Affairs to the President of the Republic of Angola, is pursuing a PhD at the University of Oxford. The author of a book and several scientific papers, She is also a TED Speaker and has received numerous recognitions for her work, including the United Nations Young Champions of the Earth Award, a Wings WorldQuest Fellowship, and Angola’s Golden Medal for Civil Merit. She has also been named a National Geographic Emerging Explorer.

rebuilding after civil war – instigating curiosity
Nominated by: Brianna Rowe, MI'11 Joe Grabowski, FI'18
Class of 2023 Location USA

I began my career working as a freshwater ichthyologist on the 2015 megatransect expedition through the Okavango Basin. Over the course of numerous expeditions, our work has continued to yield an abundance of new data, including the identification of more than eight species of fish new to science and 16 new source lakes and peat bogs in an area of Angola that had been isolated for decades due to civil unrest.

Through my work, I have been able to meet and learn from the local people, including the Mbunda of southeastern Angola, who are now beginning to play a key role in protecting this incredible wilderness. Their engagement has come largely as a result of the educational outreach activities for young people I developed to raise awareness of the incredible ecological richness they possess and empower them to reclaim cultural traditions lost in the years of civil war. This, in turn, has encouraged the chiefs of other villages to reach out to me to develop similar programs for their youth. These include customized education programs, complete with mapping exercises, storytelling, and materials translated into local languages, as well as models for potential livelihood alternatives that will enable locals to leverage scientific findings to improve their social condition, fight poverty, and protect their environment.

“I keep pushing forward, now combining exploration, science and community engagement alongside policy, assuring we reach social, environmental and economic sustainability in the area. For my son, for my people, for my country, and for this whole ecosystem that is a world jewel”

- Adjany Costa

Not only did I fall in love with the people of this land, I also fully recognize their central role in protecting this important transboundary system, upon which more than two million people in seven different countries depend. Through a combination of scientific exploration, community engagement, and policymaking, I am working to ensure that we achieve social, environmental, and economic sustainability in the area and preserve this jewel of an ecosystem that is the Okavango.

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