Person:
Larson, Donald F.

Development Research Group, World Bank
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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 - 10 of 14
  • 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
    Can Financial Markets be Tapped to Help Poor People Cope with Weather Risks?
    (World Bank, Washington, D.C., 2002-03) Skees, Jerry; Varangis, Panos; Larson, Donald; Siegel, Paul
    Poor households in rural areas are particularly vulnerable to risks that reduce incomes and increase expenditures. Most past research has focused on risk-coping strategies for the rural poor, specially on micro-level and household actions. These are risks that can been shared within a community or extended family. These strategies are effective for independent risks, but ineffective for covariate or systemic risks. The authors focus on private and public mechanisms for managing covariate risk for natural disasters. When many households within the same community face risks that create losses for all, traditional coping mechanisms are likely to fail. Such covariate risks are not uncommon in many developing countries, especially where farming remains a major source of income. The authors focus on risks related to weather events (such as excess rain, droughts, freezes, and high winds) that have a severe impact on rural incomes. Weather insurance could cover the covariate risk for a community of poor households through formal and informal risk-sharing arrangements among households that are purchasing these weather contracts. Given recent Mexican innovations targeted at helping the poor cope with catastrophe weather events, the authors use Mexico as a case study. In Mexico, poor households are exposed to systemic risks, such as droughts and floods, that affect the economic livelihood of their region. Catastrophic insurance is useful for small farmers, although commercially oriented small farmers may wish to obtain coverage for less catastrophic events. Weather insurance could meet this need. It pays out according to the frequency and intensity of specific weather events. Because weather insurance depends on the occurrences and objective measure of intensity of a specific event, it does not require individual farm inspection that can be very costly for small farm. The authors argue that a key issue of delivering insurance to small farmers is the existence of producer organizations. In Mexico, the farmer mutual insurance funds provide a good example. These funds provide insurance to their members by pulling together resources to pay for future indemnities and reinsures itself from major systemic risks that could hurt simultaneously all their members.
  • 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
    Carbon Markets, Institutions, Policies, and Research
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2008-10) Larson, Donald F.; Dinar, Ariel; Rahman, Shaikh Mahfuzur; Entler, Rebecca
    The scale of investment needed to slow greenhouse gas emissions is larger than governments can manage through transfers. Therefore, climate change policies rely heavily on markets and private capital. This is especially true in the case of the Kyoto Protocol with its provisions for trade and investment in joint projects. This paper describes institutions and policies important for new carbon markets and explains their origins. Research efforts that explore conceptual aspects of current policy are surveyed along with empirical studies that make predictions about how carbon markets will work and perform. The authors summarize early investment and price outcomes from newly formed markets and point out areas where markets have preformed as predicted and areas where markets remain incomplete. Overall the scale of carbon-market investment planned exceeds earlier expectations, but the geographic dispersion of investment is uneven and important opportunities for abatement remain untapped in some sectors, indicating a need for additional research on how investment markets work. How best to promote the development and deployment of new technologies is another promising area for study identified in the paper.
  • Publication
    Factors Affecting Levels of International Cooperation in Carbon Abatement Projects
    (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2008-11) Dinar, Ariel; Rahman, Shaikh Mahfuzur; Larson, Donald; Ambrosi, Philippe
    The Clean Development Mechanism, a provision of The Kyoto Protocol, allows countries that have pledged to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to gain credit toward their treaty obligations by investing in projects located in developing (host) countries. Such projects are expected to benefit both parties by providing low-cost abatement opportunities for the investor-country, while facilitating capital and technology flows to the host country. This paper analyzes the Clean Development Mechanism market, emphasizing the cooperation aspects between host and investor countries. The analysis uses a dichotomous (yes/no) variable and three continuous variants to measure the level of cooperation, namely the number of joint projects, the volume of carbon dioxide abatement, and the volume of investment in the projects. The results suggest that economic development, institutional development, the energy structure of the economies, the level of country vulnerability to various climate change effects, and the state of international relations between the host and investor countries are good predictors of the level of cooperation in Clean Development Mechanism projects. The main policy conclusions include the importance of simplifying the project regulation/clearance cycle; improving the governance structure host and investor countries; and strengthening trade or other long-term economic activities that engage the countries.
  • Publication
    Aligning Climate Change Mitigation and Agricultural Policies in Eastern Europe and Central Asia
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2012-06) Larson, Donald F.; Blankespoor, Brian
    Greenhouse gas emissions are largely determined by how energy is created and used, and policies designed to encourage mitigation efforts reflect this reality. However, an unintended consequence of an energy-focused strategy is that the set of policy instruments needed to tap mitigation opportunities in agriculture is incomplete. In particular, market-linked incentives to achieve mitigation targets are disconnected from efforts to better manage carbon sequestered in agricultural land. This is especially important for many countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia where once-productive land has been degraded through poor agricultural practices. Often good agricultural policies and prudent natural resource management can compensate for missing links to mitigation incentives, but only partially. At the same time, two international project-based programs, Joint Implementation and the Clean Development Mechanism, have been used to finance other types of agricultural mitigation efforts worldwide. Even so, a review of projects suggests that few countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia take full advantage of these financing paths. This paper discusses mitigation opportunities in the region, the reach of current mitigation incentives, and missed mitigation opportunities in agriculture. The paper concludes with a discussion of alternative policies designed to jointly promote mitigation and co-benefits for agriculture and the environment.
  • Publication
    Will Markets Direct Investments under the Kyoto Protocol?
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2007-02) Larson, Donald F.
    Under the Kyoto Protocol, countries can meet treaty obligations by investing in projects that reduce or sequester greenhouse gases elsewhere. Prior to ratification, treaty participants agreed to launch country-based pilot projects, referred to collectively as Activities Implemented Jointly (AIJ), to test novel aspects of the project-related provisions. Relying on a 10-year history of projects, the authors investigate the determinants of AIJ investment. Their findings suggest that national political objectives and possibly deeper cultural ties influenced project selection. This characterization differs from the market-based assumptions that underlie well-known estimates of cost-savings related to the Protocol's flexibility mechanisms. The authors conclude that if approaches developed under the AIJ programs to approve projects are retained, benefits from Kyoto's flexibility provisions will be less than those widely anticipated.
  • 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
    Agriculture and the Clean Development Mechanism
    (2011-04-01) Larson, Donald F.; Frisbie, J. Aapris
    Many experts believe that low-cost mitigation opportunities in agriculture are abundant and comparable in scale to those found in the energy sector. They are mostly located in developing countries and have to do with how land is used. By investing in projects under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), countries can tap these opportunities to meet their own Kyoto Protocol obligations. The CDM has been successful in financing some types of agricultural projects, including projects that capture methane or use agricultural by-products as an energy source. But agricultural land-use projects are scarce under the CDM. This represents a missed opportunity to promote sustainable rural development since land-use projects that sequester carbon in soils can help reverse declining soil fertility, a root cause of stagnant agricultural productivity. This paper reviews the process leading to current CDM implementation rules and describes how the rules, in combination with challenging features of land-use projects, raise transaction costs and lower demand for land-use credits. Procedures by which developed countries assess their own mitigation performance are discussed as a way of redressing current constraints on CDM investments. Nevertheless, even with improvements to the CDM, an under-investment in agricultural land-use projects is likely, since there are hurdles to capturing associated ancillary benefits privately. Alternative approaches outside the CDM are discussed, including those that build on recent decisions taken by governments in Copenhagen and Cancun.