SEEDS started in 1993 responding to the starvation deaths of the poorest of the poor due to extreme drought conditions in the western part of Odisha. The primary force behind the formation of SEEDS came from Priyadarsan Patra, a young graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin at the time, already active in a student organization called India Progressive Action Group (founded 1989). Moved by appeals from Priyadarsan and the heart wrenching news of parents selling children for food in newspapers, a few Odias in Canada and USA came together to do something about it. The first initiative was a drought assistance project called KBK, named after the three districts Kalahandi, Bolangir, and Koraput in western Odisha that were most affected by drought and poverty.
But providing just disaster relief wasn’t a good enough solution to the complex problems that gave rise to poverty, hunger, and starvation. Therefore, focus soon expanded to being a catalyst for sustainable solutions toward economic and educational development. During the formative years 1993 to 2000, SEEDS focused on supporting education, basic needs such as access to water for agriculture, and livelihood security for communities in remote areas. The devastation caused in coastal Odisha by the super cyclone of 1999 brought more opportunity to continue to explore, experiment, and gain experience in creating sustainable solutions in addition to damage repair and relief after natural disasters.
As we grew, our focus on economic development expanded with more livelihood security and income generation projects. Focus on education expanded to rural math talent development at secondary school level as well as supporting a path to professional education after high school. Supporting rural women’s movements for economic empowerment through self help groups, micro and nano finance; introducing new technology in remote rural areas such as affordable solar lanterns, ferro-cement fishing boats, low cost mass computing centers, and modern electronic libraries were included. Focus also expanded to preservation of traditional, dying art forms and repurposing them for awareness of contemporary issues.