File photo: Independent Media
Cape Town - The persistent drought across the Western Cape and the crucial August rain that failed to materialise is having a devastating effect on small towns dependent on the flower season for tourism revenue.

One festival has been cancelled while others are scaling down because flowers are not as abundant as in previous years.

This year’s Clanwilliam Wild Flower Show, that was to take place from August 25 to September 2 has been cancelled due to late blooming of flowers.

Chairperson of the show Alida Stone said: "We don’t have enough flowers to build the displays. This year, the flowers are struggling and we only pick when abundant, in keeping with conservation, our main priority."

Stone said the other activities that accompany the show, such as music shows and art competitions, will go ahead.

Conservation manager of Cape Nature Cederberg Rika du Plessis said the rainfall for the past seven months has been the worst since 1953.

"The average rainfall measured at Algeria Forestry Station is 724mm per year. Last year it was 545mm. If we continue with the rain pattern, we won’t even reach 300mm by the end of this year."

The Darling Wildflower Society’s Michelle Linder said it has also noted fewer flowers but said the show will go on.

"It is our centenary show so we have to have one. We will continue even if there are no flowers. We have seen some coming out, so we'll hopefully get more rain and have flowers until mid-September."

Committee member John Duckitt has been monitoring weather patterns in the region. He said Darling has always had flowers and hoped it will live up to expectations this year.

"If current rainfall trends continue, this year is looking to be our driest ever. By the end of July we had only 40% of our annual average rainfall, it should be at 63% in an average year. We should have almost 80% by the end of August, which is at 42%."

Helena van der Westhuizen, organiser of the Hopefield Fynbos festival, said it was too far advanced with preparations to cancel but would scale down the flower part. She said people went out into the fields to assess the flowers and it won’t be like previous years.

"We have decided to call it a festival instead of a show because of the smaller flower exhibitions we will have. Normally, we use the big hall, but this year we will probably only use half of the hall."

Weather forecaster at the Cape Town Weather Office, Thabisile Ntleko, said two or three seasons worth of rain is needed this year alone for any relief from the dry spell.

"There is a cold front expected to pass through on Friday. Expecting rainfall amounts between 5mm-15mm, but can get 20mm-25mm over the western mountainous areas and catchment areas. This will not be significant in terms of breaking the dry spell or having much impact on dam levels."

Bronwynne Jooste, spokesperson for MEC for Economic Opportunities Responsible for Tourism, Economic Development and Agriculture Alan Winde, said the drought had not had a negative effect on tourism and was not able to speak on flower festivals specifically.

"Tourists use between three and eight times more water than residents. We know water is key for economic growth, and central to tourism experiences. We need the tourism sector to partner with us to conserve water."

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Cape Argus