The return of the water buffalo

Suphanburi, Thailand. Posted on Flickr by "Poulet".

The world's scaling petrol prices and deepening financial woes have left no stone unturned. Even in the corners of Southeast Asia, where water buffaloes are grudgingly being brought back from retirement...


Nye Noona, alias "Ginger", runs the blog Neynoona and contributes to Laovoices. Originally from Laos, her family ran a farm in Thailand before moving to the US.

I've been thinking about the rise in gas prices lately and thought about farmers that have to rely on steel buffaloes to plough rice paddy - and I'm wondering if it's cost effective. This might be time to bring back our trusted friend, the water buffalo.

When we first moved to Thailand, our family became farmers and it was so obvious that we didn't know anything about farming. We looked more Chinese with our light complexion in comparison to the Thai farmers. They called us ‘Jek' which is very much like Chink, but a Thai/ Lao slang for Chinese people. This was not the end of the story, but merely the beginning, because even when we bought water buffaloes, we had to prove them right by buying the buffaloes that didn't know how to plough the rice paddy. It took us awhile to train them. It's more like it took us a while to learn together.

So not all water buffaloes know how to plough the rice paddy, and with the high price of gas, many farmers in Thailand and Laos might decide to go back to using water buffaloes (...). Over the past few decades, Thai farmers gradually moved away from using animals, choosing to use tractors instead. Tractors provided a faster, more efficient means of farming, but (...) machines are much more expensive to run--meaning that buffaloes are back in demand. (A water buffalo costs around 12,000-17,000 Baht [€260 - €370]).

Going backward seems like a bad thing, but there are many positive incentives (...). Unlike steel buffaloes, water buffaloes are low maintenance, they can eat grass, rice straws, and most things that are green, and this seems like a perfect solution for the rise in gas price. They can also be used for cart haulage, carrying heavy loads, and as great transportation for farmers as well. With so many benefits, I'm willing to overlook that their farts can contribute to global warming. What is really great is that water buffaloes can help improve the soil. Did you know that each year, an adult buffalo produces four to six tonnes of wet manure plus additional urine as bio-fertilizer to the land? This reduces or eliminates the need for chemical fertilizers, as well as provides essential soil humus which chemicals can't provide. This is a tremendous cash savings for farmers. I'm sold, I love this idea."

Posted on Flickr by "preluded".

"Steel buffalo" in Thailand. Posted on Flickr by "preluded".


Just perfect - petrol/gas mungers can kiss their ***** goodbye!!

It actually feels wonderful I think - when nature deals with nature, the marriage is so hmmmm - perfect: I mean, when one of nature's components (in this case the Buffalo)meets another component (the mud,water,microbs and even the person and equipment that plough's the marsh)the subsequent action goes smoothly. Well, if someone out there thought that,besides gas/petrol consuming equipment, man wouldn't survive, here is reality.You need one of those courses with a buffalo in the marsh, check our dear friends in Laos,Thailand etc. Great job guys...I just wish we could come up with something better than a bailout - feels like something that fell out of a horse - yawky eh?