Chairperson, hon Minister, Deputy Minister and other Ministers present, Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Science and Technology, hon members, we are meeting here today to approve the funds allocated to the Department of Science and Technology for their programmes. As we look at this department and its programmes, the question is: Do we, as Parliament, agree that the funds allocated to the department will be used for a just cause?
One of the priorities of the department is to cushion the impact of climate change on our people. The department accepts that climate change is one of the major threats facing humanity in the 21st century, with Africa being the hardest hit. The challenge is to have the capacity to adapt to climate change.
Climate change poses a greater threat to poor people, whose survival depends on natural resources. Subsistence farmers, for example, depend on rainfall for irrigation. If rainfall patterns change, their lives are disrupted.
Let us try to see what made the department concentrate on this phenomenon of climate change. Let's look at the impact of climate change on agriculture and food security.
I grew up in a rural area, as a rural girl, as a daughter to subsistence farmers. Around September the first rains would fall. Around October, more rain would fall. We would start ploughing and we would harvest bags and bags of mealies. For the whole year we would be exchanging bags of mealies for mealie meal. We would have food on our table every day. But, over time, that has changed. One asks oneself what is happening. The answer is always: It is climate change. [Applause.] Climate change comes with floods that will clean off the good soil from the earth's surface - soil that is needed for food production. Then, when the droughts come and we want to plant, it is a disaster. Food production is made more difficult.
Climate change also has an impact on biodiversity, because higher temperatures, droughts and floods are threats to ecosystems. Even the migration patterns of some migratory animals might change. At times, the changes in temperature affect species distribution and population sizes. This causes changes in reproduction patterns and, at times, even the extinction of species.
If we look at the impact on human health we see that once there are floods, we have a larger area in which disease-carrying insects can start reproducing. For example, we'll have malaria mosquitoes breeding in flooded areas, and the breeding area grows larger and larger with the floods. We also find that even where there was no malaria in the past, we will now start having outbreaks. That is one of the impacts of climate change.
Climate change also has an impact on water resources. We will have water, then not have water; we will have floods followed by droughts. We will find that the places where people can get water will become very scarce. As these water sources dry up, competition between animals and people for water will start to develop. Forget about plants being irrigated. When people and animals share drinking places, one can imagine what will happen there: The development of disease will become very easy.
Such are the impacts of climate change, and they are the things that made the Department of Science and Technology decide that it needed to start studying these phenomena and developing people who could look at intervention strategies that could save people from these horrible things that are bound to happen to them.
Looking at all this, one can observe that the use of these funds by this department would be for a good cause. It is to save people from the horrible impact that they could experience from climate change.
A number of things have been said here, by the Minister herself, as well as by other members of the committee. I observed something important in what each and every one of them said. Everybody has spoken and from what has been said, one can see how everything - the MeerKAT, or whatever - is going to impact positively on people who would otherwise have been impacted on negatively. Therefore, I recommend that, as Parliament, we give this Budget Vote the thumbs-up.