Afar Magazine Spotlights ECODIT’s Work on the Lebanon Mountain Trail

On August 15, 2019, Afar Magazine, one of the top travel magazines in America, spotlighted the Lebanon Mountain Trail (LMT). ECODIT established the LMT– and its side trail the Baskinta Literary Trail (BLT) – with support from USAID during 2006-2008.

The article describes how ECODIT President Joseph Karam returned to his home country Lebanon during and after the country’s civil war and was inspired by his time living in America and hiking the Appalachian Trail to establish a similar trail in Lebanon, with the aims of promoting rural tourism, empowering rural communities, rebuilding the country in the aftermath of the war, and promoting healing and reconciliation. It further describes how ECODIT managed to receive funding from USAID to realize the LMT and establish the LMT Association (LMTA) to protect, maintain and promote the trail. The magazine calls the trail a “national treasure” and quotes Gilbert Moukhaiber, an ecotourism pioneer and also a former member of the ECODIT LMT project team, as saying that “through the trail, we are rebuilding what the civil war tore apart.”

The LMT is a 293-mile trail that connects shepherd and agricultural routes with ancient Phoenician and Roman footpaths. It comprises 70 culturally diverse mountain towns, two biosphere reserves, four nature reserves, and five protected areas. As part of the project, ECODIT recruited and trained staff, volunteers, and champions, established 11 family-owned guesthouses, upgraded two historic town squares, and built several other facilities for visitors, including three picnic areas, a campsite, and an open-air amphitheater/cultural park as part of the Baskinta Literary Trail (BLT). The trail now sees tens of thousands of visitors each year and is a source of livelihoods for local communities and a point of local and national pride. Earlier this year, the LMT was officially endorsed by Lebanese President H.E. General Michel Aoun at a ceremony at the Presidential Palace.

ECODIT is proud of its lifetime partnership with the LMTA, and Mr. Karam serves as the President of the American Friends of the Lebanon Mountain Trail (AFLMT). ECODIT has provided thousands of hours of pro-bono expert advice and technical support to the LMTA, including for coaching and mentoring of LMTA staff; assisting with networking efforts at national, regional and international levels; and providing technical assistance to proposal writing and events organizing.