Larson, Donald F.

Development Research Group, World Bank
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Fields of Specialization
Rural Development Policy; Natural Resource Policy; Agricultural Productivity and Growth; Climate Change Policy and Markets; Commodity Markets and Risk
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Development Research Group, World Bank
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Last updated January 31, 2023
Donald F. Larson is a Senior Economist with the World Bank’s Development Research Group. He holds a B.A in economics from the College of William and Mary, an M.A. in economics from Virginia Tech, and a Ph.D. in Agricultural and Resource Economics from the University of Maryland. With colleagues, he has authored or edited five books, including An African Green Revolution: Finding Ways to Boost Productivity on Small Farms, a forthcoming volume from Springer, and The Clean Development Mechanism: An Early History of Unanticipated Outcomes, a forthcoming volume from World Scientific. He has published numerous book chapters and journal articles, with an emphasis on agricultural productivity and growth; food and rural development policies; natural resource policies; the institutions and markets related to climate change; and the performance of commodity futures and risk markets. During his time with the World Bank, Don has participated in policy discussion in Africa, Eastern Europe, Central Asia, East Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. He was a member of the team that launched the World Bank’s Prototype Carbon Fund.  
Citations 164 Scopus

Publication Search Results

Now showing 1 - 5 of 5
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    A Conceptual Model of Incomplete Markets and the Consequences for Technology Adoption Policies in Ethiopia
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2013-10) Larson, Donald F. ; Gurara, Daniel Zerfu
    In Africa, farmers have been reluctant to take up new varieties of staple crops developed to boost smallholder yields and rural incomes. Low fertilizer use is often mentioned as a proximate cause, but some believe the problem originates with incomplete input markets. As a remedy, African governments have introduced technology adoption programs with fertilizer subsidies as a core component. Still, the links between market performance and choices about using fertilizer are poorly articulated in empirical studies and policy discussions, making it difficult to judge whether the programs are expected to generate lasting benefits or to simply offset high fertilizer prices. This paper develops a conceptual model to show how choices made by agents supplying input services combine with household livelihood settings to generate heterogeneous decisions about fertilizer use. An applied model is estimated with data from a panel survey in rural Ethiopia. The results suggest that adverse market conditions limit the adoption of fertilizer-based technologies, especially among resource-poor households. Farmers appear to respond to market signals in the aggregate and this provides a pathway for subsidies to stimulate demand. However, the research suggests that lowering transaction costs, through investments in infrastructure and market institutions, can generate deeper effects by expanding the technologies available to farmers across all pricing outcomes.
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    Should African Rural Development Strategies Depend on Smallholder Farms? An Exploration of the Inverse Productivity Hypothesis
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2012-09) Larson, Donald F. ; Otsuka, Keijiro ; Matsumoto, Tomoya ; Kilic, Talip
    In Africa, most development strategies include efforts to improve the productivity of staple crops grown on smallholder farms. An underlying premise is that small farms are productive in the African context and that smallholders do not forgo economies of scale -- a premise supported by the often observed phenomenon that staple cereal yields decline as the scale of production increases. This paper explores a research design conundrum that encourages researchers who study the relationship between productivity and scale to use surveys with a narrow geographic reach, when policy would be better served with studies based on wide and heterogeneous settings. Using a model of endogenous technology choice, the authors explore the relationship between maize yields and scale using alternative data. Since rich descriptions of the decision environments that farmers face are needed to identify the applied technologies that generate the data, improvements in the location specificity of the data should reduce the likelihood of identification errors and biased estimates. However, the analysis finds that the inverse productivity hypothesis holds up well across a broad platform of data, despite obvious shortcomings with some components. It also finds surprising consistency in the estimated scale elasticities.
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    Agricultural Policies and Trade Paths in Turkey
    (World Bank Group, Washington, DC, 2014-10) Larson, Donald F. ; Martin, Will ; Sahin, Sebnem ; Tsigas, Marino
    In 1959, shortly after the European Economic Community was founded under the 1957 Treaty of Rome, Turkey applied for Associate Membership in the then six-member common market. By 1963, a path for integrating the economies of Turkey and the eventual European Union had been mapped. As with many trade agreements, agriculture posed difficult political hurdles, which were never fully cleared, even as trade barriers to other sectors were eventually removed and a Customs Union formed. This essay traces the influences the Turkey-European Union economic institutions have had on agricultural policies and the agriculture sector. An applied general equilibrium framework is used to provide estimates of what including agriculture under the Customs Union would mean for the sector and the economy. The paper also discusses the implications of fully aligning Turkey's agricultural policies with the European Union's Common Agricultural Policy, as would be required under full membership.
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    Uzbekistan : Strengthening the Horticulture Value Chain
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2015-01) Larson, Donald F. ; Khidirov, Dilshod ; Ramniceanu, Irina
    Why produce a policy note on horticulture in Uzbekistan? There are several answers to this existential question, although they are not necessarily obvious ones. Agriculture, taken as a whole, constitutes a small and declining share of Uzbekistan s national income, and horticulture is a small share of agricultural income. Even so, it is an important source of income for the 4.7 million households that operate dehkan farms in rural and disproportionally poor communities. Horticultural products are grown on an additional 21 thousand larger private farms as well. Evidence in this note suggests that growing fruit and vegetables is among the most profitable activities on both dehkan and private farms and, over the last ten years, the incomes those activities generate comprised a growing share of national GDP. Horticultural export earnings have also surged in recent years, growing from USD 373 million in 2006 to USD 1.16 billion in 2010. Uzbekistan has special agro-ecological conditions that set it apart from most countries and provides the basis for its horticulture subsector. Like agriculture as a whole, the subsector benefits greatly from policies that support basic research in agronomy and post-harvest technologies, from policies that support private investment and efficient markets, and from policies that promote the good stewardship of natural resources. The policy note is centered on the horticultural subsector. However, because an effort is made to draw comparisons between the policy environment that prevails for dehkan farmers and private farmers growing horticultural crops and that which is relevant for private farmers growing wheat and cotton, the note touches on many sector-wide issues. Still, it is important to emphasize that this policy note should not be viewed as a general review of agricultural policies. Finding ways to adapt policy lessons from horticulture to improve agricultural productivity as a whole is a more ambitious task and one that requires broader analysis and discussion.
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    Food Security and Storage in the Middle East and North Africa
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2012-04) Larson, Donald F. ; Lampietti, Julian ; Gouel, Christophe ; Cafiero, Carlo ; Roberts, John
    In times of highly volatile commodity markets, governments often try to protect their populations from rapidly-rising food prices, which can be particularly harsh for the poor. A potential solution for food-deficit countries is to hold strategic reserves, which can be called on when international prices spike. But how large should strategic stockpiles be? This paper develops a dynamic storage model for wheat in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, where imported wheat dominates the average diet. The paper uses the model to analyze a strategy that sets aside wheat stockpiles, which can be used when needed to keep domestic prices below a targeted price. This paper shows that if the target is set high and reserves are adequate, the strategy can be effective and robust. Contrary to most interventions, strategic storage policies are counter-cyclical and, when the importing region is sufficiently large, a regional policy can smooth global prices. This paper shows that this is the case for the MENA region. Nevertheless, the policy is more costly than the pro-cyclical policy of a targeted intervention that directly offsets high prices with a subsidy similar to food stamps.