The team carried out the hike as part of the Steps to Peace challenge. They wanted to raise awareness of the negative impacts of climate change and conflict on everyday life for groups such as nomadic herders who travel to graze their animals, as well as talk about the dangers of mines, clusters and toy bombs.
Muhammad Arif Urfi, a long-time partner of Conciliation Resources, led the expedition. Here, he shares the stories of those he met and talked to about life along the Line of Control.
“We began our challenge from Peerchnasi at 10,800 feet above sea level. Near Nagan we met an old man who was born before the partition of Jammu and Kashmir. He used to migrate to the alpine pastures with his cattle every year for seventy years, but he increasingly found the fields unfit for cattle grazing. Pre-partition, locals always sent someone to check the growth of the grass before they migrated. They would check the quality of the fields, but with increased militarisation and the risk of mines this had stopped. The rise in landslides and flooding has led to further degradation of the land.”
“During the hike, we had meaningful sessions with locals about climate change, such as how we could change crop patterns, and how we could mitigate natural occurrences and minimise the loss of human life and infrastructure. The impact of human conflict on wildlife is another burning issue which is being faced by the local community. The community leaders have decided to take this issue up with the relevant forums of the Government to find out a way to protect wildlife.”
“A beautiful coloured nomadic caravan was travelling to the plains of Punjab. I had a conversation with a woman wearing traditional jewellery and typical Gojri costumes, she told me that the caravan was travelling for twenty days from Minimarg Astor - some ninety miles from Nagan. Due to the huge quantity of toy bombs and anti-person minefields they had to travel more than the usual wayfaring… they had to divert the route of the caravan due to the possibility of cross fire on the Line of Control.”
“A day-long travelling in thick forest led us to Seemari valley where we visited Environmental Conservation Organisation (ECO), a community owned eco-tourism project which was initially a rehabilitation project for victims of cross-Line of Control firing. In 2014, when I had returned to Kashmir after finishing my peacebuilding fellowship with Conciliation Resources in the UK, I discussed the Northern Irish model of rehabilitation of ex-combatants with my colleague, Mr Asif Raza Mir (President, ECO). We thought about how we could use other models for rehabilitation of the Line of Control victims. ECO initiated this project using community participation and now this is one of the unique community-based ecotourism projects in its nature which has been serving the community for the last ten years.”
“A delicious lunch was made as we reached ECO and we met with the local community and discussed the wildlife protection reforestation campaign, and moved to the finish point Chamba village. It was an unforgettable challenge which motivated many people we met as peace lovers and environmental activists.”
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In South Asia, we work on both sides of the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir and in Afghanistan. In these regions, we support local initiatives to promote opportunities for building peace and trust in the region.