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 17
Publication(Washington, DC: World Bank, 2001-03) Akiyama, Takamasa ; Baffes, John ; Larson, Donald ; Varangis, PanosStructural reform of the economies of developing countries has been in the forefront of development interest since the early 1980s. This interest stems from a recognition that the structures and institutions of these countries are critical to any enhancement of economic and social development. One of the key reforms has been that of primary commodity markets, especially agricultural commodity markets, because many developing countries, including the poorest, depend heavily on these for foreign exchange earnings and employment, and hence for poverty reduction. This report focuses on the political economy and institutional aspects of agricultural commodity market reform. In order to explore in detail factors that are critical to the processes, consequences, and substance of reform, the authors have focused the analysis and evaluation on five commodities important in many developing countries, specifically cocoa, coffee, sugar, cotton, and cereal. In doing so, they highlight important lessons on how agricultural sector reform can be launched and implemented. Some of the factors identified in the report as being key to successful reform include the recognition that commodity markets often affect communities and even politics, that the initial conditions of markets are critical, and that government intervention can crowd out private sector initiatives, especially when it comes to building the institutions needed to develop a healthy agricultural sector.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, D.C., 2004-04) Considine, Timothy J. ; Larson, Donald F.The authors develop a model of environmental resource use in production with an empirical analysis of how electric power companies consume and bank sulfur dioxide pollution permits. The model considers emissions, fuels, and labor as variable inputs with quasi-fixed inputs of permits and capital. Incorporating information from permit markets allows the authors to distinguish between user costs and asset shadow values. Their findings indicate that firms are holding stocks of pollution permits for reasons other than short-term cost savings. The results also reveal substantial substitution possibilities between emissions, permits stocks, and other factors of production. The authors speculate that anticipated secondary markets for carbon-offset inventories related to the flexibility mechanisms of the Kyoto Protocol will have similar effects for greenhouse-gas emitting firms.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, D.C., 2002-03) Mundlack, Yair ; Larson, Donald F. ; Butzer, RitaThe introduction of new high-yielding varieties of cereals in the 1960s, known as the green revolution. Changed dramatically the food supply I Asia, as well as in other countries. The authors examine over an extended period, the growth consequences for agriculture in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand. Despite geographic proximity, similar climate, and other shared characteristics, gains in productivity, and income differed significantly among the countries. The authors quantify these differences, and examine their determinants. They find that the new technology changed the returns to fertilizers, irrigated land, and capital, all of which proved scarce to varying degrees, Complementing technology-related changes in factor use were investments - public and private - driven in part by policy. The authors find that factor accumulation played an important role in output growth, and that accumulations from policy-driven investments in human capital, and public infrastructure, were important sources of productivity gains. They conclude that policies that ease constraints on factor markets, and promote public investment in people, and infrastructure, provide the best opportunities for agricultural growth.
Publication(World Bank, 2004-09-01) Larson, Donald F. ; Anderson, Jock R. ; Varangis, PanosOver 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.
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, Washington, DC, 2003-03) Akiyama, Takamasa ; Baffes, John ; Larson, Donald F. ; Varangis, PanosSince the early 1980s, dramatic changes in export commodity markets, shocks associated with resulting price declines, and changing views on the role of the state have ushered in widespread reforms to agricultural commodity markets in Africa. The reforms significantly reduced government participation in the marketing and pricing of commodities. Akiyama, Baffes, Larson, and Varangis examine the background, causes, process, and consequences of these reforms and derive lessons for successful reforms from experiences in markets for four commodities important to Africa-cocoa, coffee, cotton, and sugar. The authors' commodity focus highlights the special features associated with these markets that affect the reform process. They complement the current literature on market reforms in Africa, where grain-market studies are more common. The authors suggest that the types of market interventions prior to reform are more easily classified by crop than by country. Consequently, there are significant commodity-specific differences in the initial conditions and in the outcomes of reforms related to these markets. But there are general lessons as well. The authors find that the key consequences of reform have been significant changes in or emergence of marketing institutions and a significant shift of political and economic power from the public to the private sector. In cases where interventions were greatest and reforms most complete, producers have benefited from receiving a larger share of export prices. Additionally, the authors conclude that the adjustment costs of reform can be reduced in most cases by better understanding the detailed and idiosyncratic relationships between the commodity subsector, private markets, and public services. Finally, while there are significant costs to market-dependent reforms, experiences suggest that they are a necessary step toward a dynamic commodity sector based on private initiative. This is particularly true in countries and sectors where interventions were greatest and market-supporting institutions the weakest.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2007-02) Larson, Donald F. ; Breustedt, GunnarUnder 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.
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, TalipIn 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.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2012-06) Larson, Donald F. ; Dinar, Ariel ; Blankespoor, BrianGreenhouse 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.