Rural Thai farmers are coping with increased costs of fuel by abandoning their machinery and relearning how to use water buffaloes to plough their rice fields. According to a news report last Saturday, diesel tractors have been used commonly all over the Thai countryside in recent decades, but with the high cost of fuel recently, farmers are abandoning their machines in favor of buffaloes.

Since buffaloes only cost between 12,000 and 17,000 baht (US$358 – $507), they are a cheaper alternative than diesel fuel. The difficulty is that the farmers need to relearn how to use the animals—and the latter need to be taught how to pull ploughs.

Supat Langboon for instance, a young farmer, does not have much experience controlling farm animals, but his uncle, Tawan Panyaharn, is teaching him and his buffaloes to work together. After three days of coaching, progress is slow. According to the older man, “my relatives do not know how to train a buffalo how to plough. Sometimes, I have to step in and train them myself. I can get the buffalo to pull the plough within a few days.” He is 73 years old.

Another rice farmer, 60-year-old Somporn Pagaso, is prosperous enough that he used to hire other farmers to plough his fields for him with their own equipment. But high fuel costs have forced him to go back to using his four water buffaloes to plough his eight acres. “Working with farm machinery is quick,” he said, “but we have to spend 400 baht (U.S. $12) for almost half an acre. It is better to keep the money for my nephews and use water buffaloes to work.”