The Four Horizons of Life

Water, Energy, Agriculture, and Economic Development are OHorizons’ Four Horizons of Life.

Early on, we established that the best way to accomplish our organization’s mission of ending hunger on a global scale would be to take a systems approach. Our first question was “Why does hunger exist?” We looked at the basic necessities of life that are essential to health and wellness on a fundamental level and arrived at the Four Horizons of Life: Water, Energy, Agriculture, and Economic Development.

Here’s our rationale for choosing these Horizons as areas to focus on.

Water:  Access to clean water is the first step in leading a healthy life. It’s essential. Many illnesses associated with drinking contaminated water can lead to undernourishment, chronic malnutrition, and even death. Waterborne and water-related illnesses are preventable and yet globally nearly a billion people don’t have access to clean water. When every 20 seconds a child is dying from a water-related disease it’s hard to focus elsewhere (1).

Energy: Cooking takes energy and can be a deadly endeavor in many countries throughout the world. Cooking with solid fuels, such as charcoal or animal dung, kills 4 million people, mostly women and children, each year (2). Providing food for your family shouldn’t cost your life.

Agriculture: Growing food and the equipment that enables farmers to feed the world is a critical component of battling hunger. In fact, 500 million small farms provide 80% of food consumed in much of the developing world (3) and agriculture provides livelihoods for 40% of the global population (4). Therefore, it is vital that people in developing countries who rely on farming not only for food, but as their main source of income, have the proper tools and resources so their families and their farms can be productive for generations to come. 

Economic Development: Poverty touches nearly every global development challenge and is inextricably linked to hunger as well as each of the other horizons. It is the world’s poorest who are most affected by hunger and a lack of access to many basic necessities like water, healthy food, shelter, and energy. Spurring local economic growth lifts up entire communities and provides the foundation for fulfilment of the basic necessities of the community. 

We believe that by approaching the problem of hunger through the lens of the Four Horizons of Life, we can attack hunger from a systems perspective, which leads to be more sustainable and impactful solutions. Each of the Four Horizons represents a unique development challenge that is important in its own right and deserving of thought, attention, and action.

In our next article, we will explain our Low-Tech, High-Thinking design process for innovation. 


(1) World Health Organization, 2013. Global Health Observatory Data Repository: Diarrhoeal diseases
(2) World Health Organization, 2014. Household air pollution and health
(3) International Fund for Agricultural Development, 2013Smallholder, food security, and the environment.
(4) UN Fact Sheet, 2012. The Future We Want: Food.