The Four Horizons of Life

OHorizons’ celebrates Water, Energy, Agriculture, and Economic Development as the 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?” It was clear that people dealing with hunger were in fact experiencing challenges on multiple fronts and a transition to a world that didn’t include hunger would require solutions across many aspects of people's’ daily lives in order to be successful. We looked at daily themes of life that are essential to health and wellness on a fundamental level and decided to focus our efforts on the broad areas of: 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; we felt that we couldn’t jump straight to hunger without dealing with such a fundamental precursor. 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 minute a child is dying from a water-related disease it’s hard to focus elsewhere (1).

Energy: Cooking takes energy, something we don’t really think about in America, but cooking 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 is very clearly an important 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 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, and energy. Spurring local economic growth can provide jobs and, more importantly, income for the world’s poorest to help them cope with these challenges.

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 ultimately will be more sustainable and impactful in the long term. Moreover, 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, 2013. Smallholder, food security, and the environment.

(4) UN Fact Sheet, 2012. The Future We Want: Food.