Incorporating the Simple Living Review, the Preparedness & Self-Reliance Review, as well as the Outdoor & Survival Review

Downsizing from Tractors to Camels

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The world is finally, even in the developing world, waking up; in Rajastan, India, at least.

There farmers are giving up on their gas- and diesel-guzzling tractors and are returning to using their trusty camels for haulage again, as they have done in times not so long ago.

Due to rising fuel prices farmers are rediscovering the "ships of the desert", and this is good too. Why they ever gave up the use of the camel for haulage is a question that can only be answered by them, but I would assume that they encountered the kind of salesman that can sell refrigerators and freezers to the Eskimos.

The price of a good camel has gone up sharply as a result: two years ago camels, good camels, were almost the same price as goats, now they are three times the price.

A good male camel will live for 60 to 80 years and costs about £500.00 while the cheapest tractor is £2,500.

This is good news according to the League for Pastoral Peoples and Endogenous Livestock Development because the camel population has been falling over the past ten years and this could lead to a revival of this age-old usage. So, let's hear it for the camel!

Camels have a long and regal history in India. They were, traditionally, used by Maharajahs and had great status and so did their breeders. Now decreasing amounts of grazing land and lack of investment in the existing lands have resulted in inadequate nutrition and lowered the resilience of the herds. Camel slaughter is forbidden in India but in fact sources believe that it is rampant, with the meat exported to Bangladesh. Not only is the use of camels being promoted but also its by-products such as camel milk, camel leather handbags and camel bone jewellery.

Well, this is in Rajastan, India. What about the Arab countries for camels and some of our countries, such as the USA, the UK, and countries in the EU for horses, mules and donkeys, once again?

The Amish in the USA still use the horse and many of their farms and businesses are, in their way, far more productive than many of the modern ones. In the UK in a number of areas the horse is making a comeback as a foresters timber moving animal and its use is beginning to spread. While a horse, alas, does not live as long as a camel, it nevertheless, I am sure, beats a tractor in acquisition and running costs.

Fair enough, you do not have the power of a tractor, but then you neither have the noise, the cost of fuel and maintenance – not that a horse may not need the vet or the farrier at times and neither of them are cheap – and neither the other associated problems you have with running a motor vehicle.

In Egypt and some other countries thereabouts the donkey is still in use as a means of haulage and in some of the new EU member states so is the horse, and not just by the Romani People in those countries. In Poland in the rural districts the horse and wagon are still a normal sight and they can even, at certain days, be found in the larger towns.

This might be something that we all should look at again. We also must not forget the ox and the bullock and others...

© M Smith (Veshengro), May 2008

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