All narrators refer to an abundance of grass and woodland in the past, and the stark contrast with today. Naema, Ismail and Osman describe some of the trees that existed and what they were able to harvest from the forest. According to El Nour, people used to hunt gazelle and other animals, but today “the woods have vanished”.
Several narrators, for example Widad, say that even finding the materials – wood and grasses – to build or repair their homes has become difficult. Ismail mentions attempts to construct homes from mud and concrete, but points out that people need money for labour and materials.
Many narrators say that the increasing poverty is forcing people to rely on selling fuelwood for income, even thought they know this is only a short-term solution.
Because her father is too ill to work, Widad and her mother “have to go to distant areas to get wood, sometimes from eight in the morning until the evening… [then] we prepare the wood to sell it in the morning…in Bara, [going to] house after house…”
Madinah believes that “low incomes” are the primary cause of the destruction of the remaining woodland: “there is no other way” to provide for a family “but by cutting or burning a tree in order to sell wood [or charcoal]”.