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 36
Using Markets to Deal with Commodity Price Volatility : What Can Governments and Donors Do to Develop Markets that Ameliorate Commodity Price Volatility?(World Bank, Washington, DC, 1999-01) Larson, Donald ; Varangis, PanosCommodities are often at the heart of local and sometimes national economies. Commodity prices are notoriously volatile, creating instability and uncertainty for commodity-dependent developing countries. Commodity price instability undermines economic growth and skews the distribution of income. As a result, nearly every government has tried to manage commodity price risks. This Note discusses different sets of commodity pricing policies and the barriers to their risk management.
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.
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, 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(Washington, DC: World Bank, 2008-11) Dinar, Ariel ; Rahman, Shaikh Mahfuzur ; Larson, Donald ; Ambrosi, PhilippeThe 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( 2009-06-01) Considine, Timothy J. ; Larson, Donald F.The use of carbon-intense fuels by the power sector contributes significantly to the greenhouse gas emissions of most countries. For this reason, the sector is often key to initial efforts to regulate emissions. But how long does it take before new regulatory incentives result in a switch to less carbon intense fuels? This study examines fuel switching in electricity production following the introduction of the European Union s Emissions Trading System, a cap-and-trade regulatory framework for greenhouse gas emissions. The empirical analysis examines the demand for carbon permits, carbon based fuels, and carbon-free energy for 12 European countries using monthly data on fuel use, prices, and electricity generation. A short-run restricted cost function is estimated in which carbon permits, high-carbon fuels, and low-carbon fuels are variable inputs, conditional on quasi-fixed carbon-free energy production from nuclear, hydro, and renewable energy capacity. The results indicate that prices for permits and fuels affect the composition of inputs in a statistically significant way. Even so, the analysis suggests that the industry s fuel-switching capabilities are limited in the short run as is the scope for introducing new technologies. This is because of the dominant role that past irreversible investments play in determining power-generating capacity. Moreover, the results suggest that, because the capacity for fuel substitution is limited, the impact of carbon emission limits on electricity prices can be significant if fuel prices increase together with carbon permit prices. The estimates suggest that for every 10 percent rise in carbon and fuel prices, the marginal cost of electric power generation increases by 8 percent in the short run. The European experience points to the importance of starting early down a low-carbon path and of policies that introduce flexibility in how emission reductions are achieved.
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) 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(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.