In the framework of the approval and ratification process for projects that were implemented within the AFKAR program, the project of the « Cooperazione per lo Sviluppo dei Paesi Emergenti” (COSPE) and its two partners, the Lebanese Mountain Trail Association (LMTA) and the Italian Association for Responsible Tourism was completed. Under the title "Preserving and developing economic opportunities on the Lebanese mountain trail", the project was implemented over a period of 28 months, within the villages located on the northern path of the Lebanese mountain between sections 3 and 10, where about 155 km of them was maintained.
Enhancing cooperation and trust between civil society and local authorities on the one hand, and between civil society and local communities on the other hand, are the most prominent outputs of this project. As well, it aimed to improve social and economic opportunities on the mountain path, through a series of activities that included a large number of northern villages, with various social components.
After visiting the villages located on the target section of the trail, and holding meetings with mayors in order to raise awareness about the importance of the Lebanese mountain trail, the association chose the municipalities of Ehmej and Tannourine due to the depth of their commitment. Besides, a memorandum of understanding was signed with each of them, in order to recognize and promote the trail within its scope. A sustainable business plan was also established for each of them that included the municipality’s commitment, in order to undertake a number of activities such as protecting and maintaining the trail. Other activities included : organizing environmental and tourism activities, raising awareness about it, especially in schools.
COSPE provided seven small financial grants for projects submitted by NGOs in the target villages of the project, selected after a call for proposal and following a careful evaluation process. These projects were related to the tourism and the environment fields. Their implementation was completed by training courses targeting the persons in charge of the project, in order to ensure the accuracy of implementation. Capacity building sessions for more than fifty local business owners were also given on project development, responsible tourism, marketing and media. The funded projects and training courses have improved the social and economic situation of a large number of beneficiaries.
The project also targeted about 400 students and 17 teachers from nine public schools, through environmental awareness sessions on the importance of preserving natural resources. Some students worked on environmental projects and plans that were shared with the municipalities in some villages. By this way, they acquired important tools for the path towards sustainable development in the future.
Besides, the project activities included the maintenance of about 155 km of trail and the construction of panels in each section. These panels include geographical, historical, cultural and touristic information about each one of them. 14 local tourist guides were trained in communication skills and cartography, in order to provide information and awareness about the trail.
It is to note that the Lebanese mountain trail is the longest hiking trail in Lebanon, extending over a distance of 470 km from the town of Andqdit in Akkar, to the new town of Marjeyoun in the south, and it passes through more than 75 villages at altitudes ranging from 570 to 2,011 meters above sea level . It also goes over the world heritage sites, natural and several important reserves for migratory birds. The trail is a member of the World Trail Network.