To mark its tenth anniversary, the UK Friends is supporting the next stage of development of a 150 mile hiking trail crossing the Zagros Mountain Range.
After extensive scouting over the past three years, this new trail has started to take shape. Now it needs to be turned from a vision into a sustainable path that people around the world can visit and enjoy. The next stage is an in-depth data gathering, mapping and strategic planning exercise and expedition. This is currently planned to take place in the Spring of 2022 and we are fundraising to help make it happen.
For fundraisers and donors, this is an opportunity to be in at an early stage of path development and an exciting adventure in a little-known part of the world.
You can donate here if you would like to support this project or get in touch with us to make a direct donation. We are running this campaign for 8 weeks only so that the viability of the project will be known by the end of November. Any donation you personally make through the VMG campaign site will be 25% match funded by the charity. This means, with Gift Aid if applicable, your donation may be worth up to 50% more.
If you would like an opportunity to participate in an early expedition that the UK Friends intend to organise along the trail in 2022/3, subject to its state of development, please contact us.
Where is the Zagros Trail?
The trail will run from west to east right across the Kurdistan region of Iraq. The region is undeveloped as yet for tourism so holds the potential for adventure hiking across stunning landscapes and mountainous terrain while enjoying the hospitality of the village communities that populate it.
The Zagros Trail will bring recognition to this little-known region and its people. Our experience of trails in the Middle East is that the encouragement of hiking can yield important local benefits as well as opening up new territory for responsible visitors .
In addition to the obvious physical fitness benefits for walkers, hiking brings local, national and international appreciation of a the unique characteristics of a region. This can lead to saving heritage, having a positive environmental and waste management impact and creating income and opportunities for the villagers in the region, many of whom are living at subsistence level.
How will the money raised be used?
We are fundraising to help buy the equipment, hire an expert technical trail consultant for the strategic exercise and pay the expenses of the local and international team in carrying out this exercise – a large part of this is pay and sustenance for local guides and village people during this project. More about donating can be found here.
The team will be led by Laween Mohammed of Erbil and Northern Irish trail explorer Leon McCarron who have worked closely for nearly two years to explore the hiking paths and build local relationships. This essential strategic stage will enable Laween and Leon to consolidate the work done so far, deepen local relationships, carry out risk assessment and mitigation, and help the communities along the way visualise the scope of the project.
Following this the team will create the plan for the coming months and years and start publicising the trail to open it up for international walkers.
What happens to the money raised if this strategic hike does not take place?
The UK Friends is supporting the current project with a contribution of £10,000 – about one third of the full cost of conducting the strategic exercise – and other funders, primarily the Abraham Path Initiative, are also involved. Our charity’s contribution will be in the form of a direct business grant to Leon who is leading the strategic work in the region so that he can pay local people for their work and meet other expenses.
The UK Friends has agreed with Leon and Laween, that if for any reason it is not possible to complete the strategic exercise as planned in the Spring of 2022, then monies we have raised through our VMG crowdfunding campaigned will go direct to local schools and hiking clubs in the Zagros region to enable young people to experience multi-day hiking adventures. Some sections of the long-distance trail are viable for this purpose and while day hiking is quite common in the mountains, the experience of multi-day walking is still to be opened up.
Any surplus raised will go towards the next stage of the project – training, equipping and supporting local guides and hosts, in preparation for visitors.