Person:
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
Biography
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 168 Scopus

Publication Search Results

Now showing 1 - 6 of 6
  • Publication
    Incomplete Markets and Fertilizer Use : Evidence from Ethiopia
    (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
    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.
    Spatial 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.
  • Publication
    Food Security and Storage in the Middle East and North Africa
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2012-04) Larson, Donald F.; 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.
  • Publication
    A Conceptual Model of Incomplete Markets and the Consequences for Technology Adoption Policies in Ethiopia
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2013-10) Larson, Donald F.
    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.
  • Publication
    Do Farmers Choose to Be Inefficient? Evidence from Bicol, Philippines
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2002-02) Larson, Donald F.
    Farming 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.
  • Publication
    Policies on Managing Risk in Agricultural Markets
    (World Bank, 2004-09-01) Larson, Donald F.; Varangis, Panos
    Over the past dozen years, policymakers have largely abandoned long-standing popular approaches for addressing risk in agriculture without fully resolving the question of how best to manage the negative consequences of volatile agricultural markets. The article reviews the transition from past policies and describes current approaches that distinguish between the trade-related fiscal consequences of commodity market volatility and the consequences of price and production risks for vulnerable rural households and communities. Current policies rely more heavily on markets, even though markets for risk are incomplete in numerous ways. The benefits and limitations of market-based instruments are examined in the context of risk management strategies, and innovative approaches to extend the reach of risk markets are discussed.