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 168 Scopus

Publication Search Results

Now showing 1 - 8 of 8
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    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.
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    Measures of Fixed Capital in Agriculture
    ( 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.
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    Agriculture and the Clean Development Mechanism
    ( 2011-04-01) Larson, Donald F. ; Dinar, Ariel ; 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.
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    Can Africa Replicate Asia's Green Revolution in Rice?
    ( 2010-11-01) Larson, Donald F. ; Otsuka, Keijiro ; Kajisa, Kei ; Estudillo, Jonna ; Diagne, Aliou
    Asia'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.
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    Resource Management and the Effects of Trade on Vulnerable Places and People : Lessons from Six Case Studies
    ( 2010-03-01) Larson, Donald F. ; Nash, John
    Lessons from six case studies illustrate the complex relationships between international trade, vulnerable ecologies and the poor. The studies, taken from Africa, Asia and Latin America and conducted by local researchers, are set in places where the poor live in close proximity to ecologies that are important to global conservation efforts, and focus on the cascading consequences of trade policy for local livelihoods and environmental services. Collectively, the studies show how under-valued common resources are often poorly protected and consequently subject to shifting economic incentives, including those that arise from trade. The studies provide examples where trade works to accelerate the use of natural resources and to exacerbate unsustainable dependencies by the poor, and other examples where trade has the opposite effect. An important conclusion is that local livelihood and technology choices have important consequences for how environmental resources are used and should be taken into account when designing policies to safeguard fragile ecologies.
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    Will the Clean Development Mechanism Mobilize Anticipated Levels of Mitigation?
    ( 2010-03-01) Rahman, Shaikh M. ; Dinar, Ariel ; Larson, Donald F.
    Under the Kyoto Protocol, developed countries can only tap mitigation opportunities in developing countries by investing in projects under the Clean Development Mechanism. Yet Clean Development Mechanism investments have so far failed to reach many of the high-potential sectors identified by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This raises doubts about whether the Clean Development Mechanism can generate an adequate supply of credits from the limited areas where it has proved successful. This paper examines the current trajectory of mitigation projects entering the Clean Development Mechanism pipeline and projects it forward under the assumption that the diffusion of the Clean Development Mechanism will follow a path similar to other innovations. Projections are then compared with pre-Clean Development Mechanism predictions of the mechanism s potential market size to discern whether limits on the types of projects entering the pipeline have limited the expected supply of certified emission reductions. Parameter tests suggest that this is not the case and that currently identified Clean Development Mechanism investments will generate offsets in excess of early model predictions. In particular, under favorable circumstances, the mechanism is on track to deliver an average annual flow of roughly 700 million certified emission reductions by the close of 2012 and nearly to 1,100 million certified emission reductions by 2020.
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    Diffusion of Kyoto's Clean Development Mechanism
    ( 2010) Rahman, Shaikh M. ; Dinar, Ariel ; Larson, Donald F.
    To date, developed countries can only tap mitigation opportunities in developing countries by investing in projects under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). Yet CDM investments have so far failed to reach all of the high-potential sectors identified in IPCC reports. This raises doubts about whether the CDM will be able to generate an adequate supply of credits from the limited areas where it has proved successful. Our paper examines the current trajectory of potential mitigation entering the CDM pipeline and projects it forward under the assumption that the diffusion of the CDM will follow a path similar to other kinds of innovations. Projections are then compared to pre-CDM predictions of the mechanism's potential market size used to assess Kyoto's cost, in order to discem whether limits on the types of project entering the pipeline will also limit the eventual supply of certified emission reductions (CERs). The main finding of the paper is that the mechanism is on track to deliver an average annual flow of roughly 700 million CERs by the close of 2012 and nearly to 1100 million tons by 2020. Parameter tests suggest that currently identified CDM investments will exceed early model predictions of the potential market for CDM projects. (C) 2010 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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    The Grain Chain : Food Security and Managing Wheat Imports in Arab Countries
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2011-12) Lampietti, Julian ; Larson, Donald F. ; Battat, Michelle ; Erekat, Dana ; De Hartog, Arnold ; Michaels, Sean
    Arab countries depend heavily on imported food, particularly wheat. Population growth, rising incomes, and climate change will only increase their dependency on wheat imports, thereby making Arab countries even more exposed to international market volatility. A recent World Bank study, 'the grain chain: food security and managing wheat imports in Arab countries,' identifies key bottlenecks in the wheat-import supply chain (WISC) and some possible remedies. Efficiency improvements to the supply chain can improve food security. This smart lesson provides a summary of the relevant issues.