The beautiful monasteries of Ioane Natlismcemeli and David Garegji are pivotal cultural monuments in Georgia - so much so that they are currently under consideration for world heritage status by UNESCO. But until recently, the sixth-century holy site was littered with thousands of explosive remnants of war.
HALO completed clearance of the 61km2 site at the end of 2015, funded by the governments of Japan and the United States. The monasteries had been incorporated into a large military training area during the Soviet era and HALO deminers removed more than 8000 explosive items, including 8 cluster munitions and 37 aircraft bombs. Special precautions were taken to preserve the historical and structural integrity of the site and prevent further damage and deterioration.
More than 100 men and women from the Udabno area were recruited and trained as deminers by HALO, providing local livelihoods and facilitating economic development. Employment with HALO has given villagers useful skills such as logistics, organisational management, leadership, computer literacy and basic workshop/mechanical skills. Clearance has directly benefited more than 2200 people living in nearby villages, as well as the tens of thousands of pilgrims and tourists who visit the region each year.
Three female teams, consisting of 21 deminers and 3 team leaders, were also trained in Udabno, boosting gender equality in an area where women traditionally have limited opportunities. This not only provided additional incomes for the women's families but has also enabled them to start their business or attend university. Twenty-one year old Nino Khardziani is one such case. One of the fist deminers to work on clearance operations in Udabno, Nino quickly proved herself extremely capable and was soon promoted to team leader. She is now using her salary to study Tourism Management at university. Nino explains:
Clearing the area of dangerous remains and explosives will greatly contribute towards the development of tourism in Davit Gareji and Ione Natlismcemeli monastery areas, as well as make the entire region safer.
HALO team on Udabno project