As far as I know there is no entity, whether society, foundation, association or what not under the name "The Bouffier Society". Yet it is a good name for what I want to describe.

A good point to start is 1953 when it was the turn of the French author Jean Giono to write the recurrent feature in Reader's Digest magazine "The Most Extraordinary Character I Ever Met". Giono wrote the story of how he chanced upon Elzéard Bouffier, a solitary shepherd who lived in a semi-desert area in the mountains of the South of France. Bouffier had a tiny farm, just enough to support himself. Most of the day he worked planting acorns. Day in day out, year in year out. Most of the seedings failed. But many survived. Bouffier was surprised to be asked to whom the land belonged. He did not know.

When Giono returned after several years he found the landscape transformed. Not only that: the air felt different; no longer the dry cruel desert wind. Springs were running that had been dry for generations.

When Reader's Digest came to realize that the story was fictional, they refused to publish it. Under the title "The Man Who Planted Trees" it became widely known and appreciated. It was made into a film (award at Cannes in 1987). The text of the book was recently available in English and in French.

I do not know whether Giono planted any trees himself. But I cannot help thinking that his story had something to do with Wendy Campbell-Purdie who planted many thousands of trees in the Sahara in Southern Algeria during the 1970's.

Lelia and Sebastiao Salgado transformed a desertified farm in Brazil into lush and productive forest by raising and planting trees. They founded the Instituto Terra to promote similar work elsewhere. Watch Sebastiao tell about it.

Willie Smits had the courage and insight to tackle the man-made ecological disaster in Borneo, Indonesia. To learn about his work, a good starting point is his TED talk and the Masarang Foundation.

Elzéard Bouffier may not have existed. Yet he was real, as proved by Campbell-Purdie, the Salgado's, and Smits. If it needs a name, why not "The Bouffier Society"?