Larson, Donald F.
Development Research Group, World Bank
Author Name Variants
Fields of Specialization
Rural Development Policy; Natural Resource Policy; Agricultural Productivity and Growth; Climate Change Policy and Markets; Commodity Markets and Risk
Development Research Group, World Bank
Externally Hosted Work
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.
Publication Search Results
Now showing 1 - 10 of 10
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2002-02) Larson, Donald F. ; Plessmann, FrankFarming households that differ in their ability, or willingness to take on risks are likely to make different decisions when allocating resources, and effort among income-producing activities, with consequences for productivity. The authors measure voluntary, and involuntary departures from efficiency for rice-producing households in Bicol, Philippines. They take advantage of a panel of household observations from 1978, 1983, and 1994. The unusually long-time span of the panel provides ample opportunities for the surveyed households to learn, and apply successful available technologies. The authors find evidence that diversification, and technology choices do effect outcomes among farmers, although these effects are not dominant. Accumulated wealth, past decisions to invest in education, favorable market conditions, and propitious weather are also important determinants of efficiency outcomes among Bicol rice farmers.
How Endowments, Accumulations, and Choice Determine the Geography of Agricultural Productivity in Ecuador(Oxford University Press on behalf of the World Bank, 2006-09-01) Larson, Donald F. ; Leon, MauricioSpatial disparity in incomes and productivity is apparent across and within countries. Most studies of the determinants of such differences focus on cross-country comparisons or location choice among firms. Less studied are the large differences in agricultural productivity within countries related to concentrations of rural poverty. For policy, understanding the determinants of this geography of agricultural productivity is important, because strategies to reduce poverty often feature components designed to boost regional agricultural incomes. Census and endowment data for Ecuador are used to estimate a model of endogenous technology choice to explain large regional differences in agricultural output and factor productivity. A composite-error estimation technique is used to separate systemic determinants from idiosyncratic differences. Simulations are employed to explore policy avenues. The findings suggest a differentiation between the types of policies that promote growth in agriculture generally and those that are more likely to assist the rural poor.
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 ZerfuIn 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.
Publication(World Bank Group, Washington, DC, 2014-10) Larson, Donald F. ; Martin, Will ; Sahin, Sebnem ; Tsigas, MarinoIn 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.
Are Women Less Productive Farmers?: How Markets and Risk Affect Fertilizer Use, Productivity, and Measured Gender Effects in Uganda(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2015-04) Larson, Donald F. ; Savastano, Sara ; Murray, Siobhan ; Palacios-Lopez, AmparoAfrican governments and international development groups see boosting productivity on smallholder farms as key to reducing rural poverty and safeguarding the food security of farming and non-farming households. Prompting smallholder farmers to use more fertilizer has been a key tactic. Closing the productivity gap between male and female farmers has been another avenue toward achieving the same goal. The results in this paper suggest the two are related. Fertilizer use and maize yields among smallholder farmers in Uganda are increased by improved access to markets and extension services, and reduced by ex ante risk-mitigating production decisions. Standard ordinary least squares regression results indicate that gender matters as well; however, the measured productivity gap between male and female farmers disappears when gender is included in a list of determinants meant to capture the indirect effects of market and extension access.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2012-04) Larson, Donald F. ; Lampietti, Julian ; Gouel, Christophe ; Cafiero, Carlo ; Roberts, JohnIn 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.
Publication( 2010-11-01) Butzer, Rita ; Mundlak, Yair ; Larson, Donald F.Capital is a fundamental component of agricultural production, and the accumulation of capital is key to growth in agriculture and the process of development. Unfortunately, cross-country data sets on agricultural fixed capital are rare. Using a common methodology that allows comparisons across countries, as well as over time, this paper introduces a data series on fixed capital in agriculture, based on national accounts data. The fixed capital measure differs remarkably from the Food and Agriculture Organization's data series on tractors, which has been widely utilized as a proxy for agricultural fixed capital. The authors construct comparable measures of capital in livestock and tree stock. They examine the evolution of the capital stocks from 1970 to 2000, paying particular attention to the changing composition of agricultural capital, as well as differences in the accumulation of capital for high-income and middle and lower-income countries. Using the capital measures in agricultural productivity analyses, the data yield estimated input elasticities substantially different from those found previously in the literature. The authors show explicitly that this is due to the improved data set on agricultural capital stocks, as well as the methodology used in the study.
Publication( 2010-03-01) Zerfu, Daniel ; Larson, Donald F.While the economic returns to using chemical fertilizer in Africa can be large, application rates are low. This study explores whether this is due to missing and imperfect markets. Results based on a panel survey of Ethiopian farmers suggest that while fertilizer markets are not altogether missing in rural Ethiopia, high transport costs, unfavorable climate, price risk, and illiteracy present formidable hurdles to farmer participation. Moreover, the combination of factors that promote or impede effective fertilizer markets differs among locations, making it difficult to find a single production technology that is uniformly profitable -- perhaps explaining the inconsistency between field studies finding large returns to fertilizer use in Ethiopia and survey-based studies finding fertilizer use to be uneconomic. The results suggest that households with greater stores of wealth, human capital and authority can overcome these hurdles. The finding offers some encouragement, but also implies a self-enforcing link between low agricultural productivity and poverty, since low-asset households are less able to overcome these problems. The study suggests that the provision of extension services can be effective and that lowering transport costs can raise the intensity of fertilizer use by lowering the cost of fertilizer and boosting the farmgate value of output.
Publication( 2010-11-01) Larson, Donald F. ; Otsuka, Keijiro ; Kajisa, Kei ; Estudillo, Jonna ; Diagne, AliouAsia's green revolution in rice was transformational and improved the lives of millions of poor households. Rice has become an increasingly important part of African diets and imports of rice have grown. Agronomists point out that large areas in Africa are well suited for rice and are encouraged by the field tests of new rice varieties. So is Africa poised for its own green revolution in rice? This study reviews the recent literature on rice technologies and their impact on productivity, incomes, and poverty, and compares current conditions in Africa with the conditions that prevailed in Asia as its rice revolution got under way. An important conclusion is that, to a degree, a rice revolution has already begun in Africa. Moreover, many of the same practices that have proved successful in Asia and in Africa can be applied where yields are currently low. At the same time, for many reasons, Africa's rice revolution has been, and will continue to be, characterized by a mosaic of successes, situated where the conditions are right for new technologies to take hold. This can have profound effects in some places. But because diets, markets, and geography are heterogeneous in Africa, the successful transformation of the Africa's rice sector must be matched by productivity gains in other crops to fully launch Africa's Green Revolution.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2008-02) Mundlak, Yair ; Butzer, Rita ; Larson, Donald F.The paper presents empirical analysis of a panel of countries to estimate an agricultural production function using a measure of capital in agriculture absent from most studies. The authors employ a heterogeneous technology framework where implemented technology is chosen jointly with inputs to interpret information obtained in the empirical analysis of panel data. The paper discusses the scope for replacing country and time effects by observed variables and the limitations of instrumental variables. The empirical results differ from those reported in the literature for cross-country studies, largely in augmenting the role of capital, in combination with productivity gains, as a driver of agricultural growth. The results indicate that total factor productivity increased at an average rate of 3.2 percent, accounting for 59 percent of overall growth. Most of the remaining gains stem from large inflows of fixed capital into agriculture. The results also suggest possible constraints to fertilizer use.