NGO Lomeki Wins “Best Community Initiative” Award for its Work Protecting the Truso Valley
Located in the heart of Georgia’s Kazbegi municipality is the Truso Valley, a visually breathtaking gorge that is home to a geyser, unique travertine formations, pristine mineral lakes, and the remnants of more than 20 historical settlements – some dating back to medieval times. But despite this rich cultural heritage and stunning scapes, the area lacks the protection mechanisms needed to safeguard it from appropriation. Despite the passage of the Creating and Managing the Truso Protected Landscape Law in 2021, preservation efforts have stalled, and no active steps have been taken to protect the area or create a council for its responsible management.
To address this issue, local Kazbegi resident Ana Gelashvili formed the NGO Lomeki. With support from the USAID Civil Society Engagement Program, she and her team are working to raise wider awareness around the cultural significance of the valley and engage both experts and government officials in developing a sustainable management plan for its protection.
Since their project began in February 2023, Lomeki has organized a media tour, developed informational brochures, created video content, and canvassed eight villages in Kazbegi, working to raise both local and national awareness of the significance of the Truso Valley. It has worked to engage students in the area’s protection, visiting local schools to teach them about the cultural heritage of the Truso Valley and organizing a summer camp for 12 local students who have volunteered with the project.
In an effort to improve the management of the land, Lomeki is working with several conservation experts and has met with the director of the Tusheti National Reserve to gather best practices on protecting natural landscapes. The organization has also worked to engage the local government, which has established a council on environmental issues, to ensure that citizens’ voices are heard during planning processes. Gelashvili says that inclusive involvement of both the community and the government are essential to ensuring these pieces of her cultural heritage are not lost.
“The Truso Valley really is a unique place,” she says. “It still exists today almost entirely in its original form. The villages there are beautiful examples of typical mountain residential complexes of the late Middle Ages and are located more than 2,000 meters above sea level. Preserving and protecting them is important for our identity, and I want to pass this treasure on to future generations.”
And beyond the awe-inspiring views Lomeki is working to protect, its efforts are also offering inspiration to other activists around the country. On November 16, the organization took home the Best Community Initiative Award at the Community Leaders Forum, an annual event hosted by the Center for Strategic Research and Development of Georgia (CSRDG) that honors “outstanding community initiatives” and offers a space for open dialogue and practice sharing for civic actors from around Georgia.
At the event, which was supported by the European Union and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and attended by more than 170 community leaders and activists from around Georgia, Lomeki was designated as the “audience’s choice” of the most inspiring initiative of the last year. Gelashvili says she hopes this recognition will bring even greater attention to the cultural significance of the Truso Valley and remind other activists that the work they are doing is important. “Recognition and appreciation are important and not always a given in this kind of work,” she says.
“Being recognized nationally is both gratifying and an important part of continuing to raise wider attention around the importance of protecting the Truso Valley. But it also sends a message of encouragement to other activists and community leaders: The work you are doing matters. There are people who see you, and they appreciate the hard work you are doing – even when you may be working in a remote area or facing a lot of challenges.”