Person:
Larson, Donald F.

Development Research Group, World Bank
Loading...
Profile Picture
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
Degrees
ORCID
External Links
Departments
Development Research Group, World Bank
Externally Hosted Work
Contact Information
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 39
Loading...
Thumbnail Image
Publication

Substitution and Technological Change under Carbon Cap and Trade : Lessons from Europe

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.

Loading...
Thumbnail Image
Publication

Determinants of Agricultural Growth in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand

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.

Loading...
Thumbnail Image
Publication

Are Women Less Productive Farmers?: How Markets and Risk Affect Fertilizer Use, Productivity, and Measured Gender Effects in Uganda

2015-04, Larson, Donald F., Murray, Siobhan, Palacios-Lopez, Amparo

African governments and international development groups see boosting productivity on smallholder farms as key to reducing rural poverty and safeguarding the food security of farming and non-farming households. Prompting smallholder farmers to use more fertilizer has been a key tactic. Closing the productivity gap between male and female farmers has been another avenue toward achieving the same goal. The results in this paper suggest the two are related. Fertilizer use and maize yields among smallholder farmers in Uganda are increased by improved access to markets and extension services, and reduced by ex ante risk-mitigating production decisions. Standard ordinary least squares regression results indicate that gender matters as well; however, the measured productivity gap between male and female farmers disappears when gender is included in a list of determinants meant to capture the indirect effects of market and extension access.

Loading...
Thumbnail Image
Publication

How Endowments, Accumulations, and Choice Determine the Geography of Agricultural Productivity in Ecuador

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.

Loading...
Thumbnail Image
Publication

On the Central Role of Small Farms in African Rural Development Strategies

2016-06, Larson, Donald F., Otsuka, Keijiro

Improving the productivity of smallholder farms in Sub-Saharan Africa offers the best chance to reduce poverty among this generation of rural poor, by building on the limited resources farming households already possess. It is also the best and shortest path to meet rising food needs. Using examples from farmers' maize and rice fields, and comparisons with Asia, this paper examines why the set of technologies promoted to date have produced localized successes rather than transformational change. The paper explains the limitations of alternative policies that are not centered on small farms. It provides indicative examples of how resource-management technologies can supplement seed-fertilizer technologies to speed an African Green Revolution.

Loading...
Thumbnail Image
Publication

Should African Rural Development Strategies Depend on Smallholder Farms? An Exploration of the Inverse Productivity Hypothesis

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.

Loading...
Thumbnail Image
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.

Loading...
Thumbnail Image
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.

Loading...
Thumbnail Image
Publication

Rural Development and Agricultural Growth in Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand

2004, Akiyama, Takamasa, Larson, Donald F., Akiyama, Takamasa, Larson, Donald F.

Understanding economic growth is central to the study of development. Rural economic growth is an important aspect of economic growth. Historically, rural agriculture has employed most people in most countries, and continues to do so today. Nevertheless, the casual relationship between economic growth and growth in agriculture remain poorly understood. This volume focuses on economic growth in the agriculture sectors of Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand. Starting from similar positions, the agriculture sectors of these economies have diverged considerably over the last 40 years. This volume investigates the ways in which policy, institutions, investments, resource constraints and the reallocation of agricultural labor have driven this divergence. It volume documents the interplay of endowments, technology, the accumulation of productive factors, policy, and advocacy in the rural sectors of these three countries. It contributes in its own ways to an explanation of the past. Good policy rests on an understanding of successes and failures in the past. This book is a critical contribution to such an understanding.

Loading...
Thumbnail Image
Publication

Can Financial Markets be Tapped to Help Poor People Cope with Weather Risks?

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.