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
    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.
  • Publication
    Determinants of Agricultural Growth in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand
    (World Bank, Washington, D.C., 2002-03) Mundlack, Yair; Larson, Donald F.; Butzer, Rita
    The 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
    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.; Matsumoto, Tomoya; Kilic, Talip
    In 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
    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
    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.
  • 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
    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.
  • Publication
    Heterogeneous Technology and Panel Data : The Case of the Agricultural Production Function
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2008-02) Mundlak, Yair; Butzer, Rita; Larson, Donald F.
    The paper presents empirical analysis of a panel of countries to estimate an agricultural production function using a measure of capital in agriculture absent from most studies. The authors employ a heterogeneous technology framework where implemented technology is chosen jointly with inputs to interpret information obtained in the empirical analysis of panel data. The paper discusses the scope for replacing country and time effects by observed variables and the limitations of instrumental variables. The empirical results differ from those reported in the literature for cross-country studies, largely in augmenting the role of capital, in combination with productivity gains, as a driver of agricultural growth. The results indicate that total factor productivity increased at an average rate of 3.2 percent, accounting for 59 percent of overall growth. Most of the remaining gains stem from large inflows of fixed capital into agriculture. The results also suggest possible constraints to fertilizer use.
  • 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.