heyday to decline
The history of salt making in Guerande is quite old, and the present style
of salt pan already existed before the 9th century. From the 16th to 18th
centuries, as meat and fish preserved in salt became popular, salt consumption
rapidly increased. The demand for sel de Guerande came from all over Europe.
However there was a shadow hanging over the salt making in Guerande. Due
to the aftermath of war and the emergence of new salt production areas,
many paludier were forced to sell their salt pan and the whole area lied
barren. As a result, there were few people to carry on work in the marsh,
and salt making as a whole was in decline, And with the large-scale salt
production started by the new salt industry, the remaining paludier found
themselves in even greater difficulty.
Struggle against Development Plan
In 1968, development of recreational facilities was planned for the area.
If the project had been implemented, the Sel de Guerande marsh would have
certainly disappeared. But a small group of paludier stood up to organize
a movement against the development project, on the one hand, and to stop
the unloading of imported salt from ships, on the other.
In 1972, a Sel de Guerande growers' group, the forerunner of the present
cooperative, was organized. Instead of selling salt individually, members
of the group started joint storage of salt, which allowed them to bargain
collectively with brokers. At the time, the so-called "May Revolution"
in France led by the student movement in 1968 was challenging capitalism.
With slogans like "Return to Nature", "From urban to rural",
many students joined hands with the paludier. During the efforts to stop
the recreational facilities development plan, Mr. Charles Perrault encountered
the movement at Guerande. His group, composed of the generation of 1968,
became a driving force for restoring the salt marsh.
Meanwhile, a group of biologists and ecologists involved in the opposition
movement to the development project started field research at the marsh
and discovered the importance of the ecosystem in the area. The new generation,
who had moved to Guerande from cities, supported by these research efforts,
were able to get Guerande designated a National Nature Conservation Area
|Mr. Charles Perrault
For the Future
In 1979, the paludier established a training center for paludier, believing
that to conserve the salt marsh and the Guerande ecosystem it was most
important to continue salt making and to carry on the technology. Thus
the job of paludier, traditionally handed down from father to son, was
opened to everybody, as the training center started to accept young people
from other places.
In a new approach to marketing, a communal storehouse was installed, and
the growers' group was reorganized in 1987 as the Guerande Growers Cooperative,
which set up "Saline de Guerande". This company is under the
direct management of the cooperative and is in charge of selling the Sel
de Guerande. Under the new system a three-year stock of salt is kept to
enable planned selling, for salt harvest is subject to climate change.
This system helps the paludier to continue salt making work.
From Local to Global
In 1991 "Terre de Sel" was set up to accommodate the increasing
number of tourists who have come to the area as Sel de Guerande has gained
recognition in France. Salt Earth is a citizens' organization composed
of the salt growers' cooperative, a wild bird conservation group, and
other nature groups and operates an exhibition facility showing the salt
making process. It also organizes salt marsh tours to help people understand
the importance of the ecosystem in general and the salt marsh of Guerande
In 1988 Salt Earth launched support activities in Benin, Africa. People
in Benin used to make salt by boiling it down using firewood from mangroves.
The technology of Guerande was applied there so that salt could be drained
and dried by exposure to the sun. As a result, the destruction of the
mangroves was stopped.