Kenyan environmental activist Wangari Maathai yesterday became the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

The 64-year-old was honoured for her work as leader of the Green Belt Movement, which for 30 years has sought to empower women, improve the environment and fight corruption in Africa.

Ms Maathai, Kenya's deputy environment minister, has been internationally recognised for her struggle for democracy, and gained recent attention for a campaign against land grabbing and deforestation.

She said: "This is an overwhelming experience. It is elating. It is unbelievable, it's the kind of thing you never hear in your life. I am very flattered."