Business rocks for Isan farmers

SURIN - Growing rice is the main career for many people in Isan, but during the off-season some families can earn extra income crafting pumice stones.

  • Published: 9/02/2013 at 04:24 PM
  • Newspaper section: breakingnews

Stones are extracted from a local quarry.

A stone is carved to the right size.

Villagers in Baan Nong Ku Ya in Tha Tum district of Surin province have been applying local wisdom to making pumice stones and earning extra income for decades.

They claim to be the only village in the Northeast making the scrubbing stones and selling them nationwide.

Pumice is in fact volcanic rock while the Surin version is derived from local sandstone that has good abrasive qualities. Villagers have to dig and sometimes use explosives to obtain the rough stone from a nearby forest. The stone is sometimes as deep as five metres underground so a backhoe is needed.

Small holes are dug and filled with saltpetre to create explosions to break up the rock. The stones will be cut into small square shapes which villagers will take home to rub and shape into finished products. At this stage, the stones are sold at three baht each. 

Local women shape the finished product.

The next step is to burn the stones to strengthen them and then package them for delivery. At this stage the price is 45-50 baht a dozen, depending on volume and negotiation.

Reng Samarnthong, 45, who has been involved in the business for many years, said that originally, the pumice stones were sold only for use by local people.

But after almost all of the households in the village got involved in making the stones, there was a surplus and efforts began to find more markets.

The villagers formed a group that now produces up to 30,000 stones a month. Each delivery will contain around 13,000 stones.

Ms Reng said villagers who are not involved in the trading business work at polishing the stones or other related jobs.

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