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 14
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(World Bank Group, Washington, DC, 2014-10) Larson, Donald F. ; Martin, Will ; Sahin, Sebnem ; Tsigas, MarinoIn 1959, shortly after the European Economic Community was founded under the 1957 Treaty of Rome, Turkey applied for Associate Membership in the then six-member common market. By 1963, a path for integrating the economies of Turkey and the eventual European Union had been mapped. As with many trade agreements, agriculture posed difficult political hurdles, which were never fully cleared, even as trade barriers to other sectors were eventually removed and a Customs Union formed. This essay traces the influences the Turkey-European Union economic institutions have had on agricultural policies and the agriculture sector. An applied general equilibrium framework is used to provide estimates of what including agriculture under the Customs Union would mean for the sector and the economy. The paper also discusses the implications of fully aligning Turkey's agricultural policies with the European Union's Common Agricultural Policy, as would be required under full membership.
Are Women Less Productive Farmers?: How Markets and Risk Affect Fertilizer Use, Productivity, and Measured Gender Effects in Uganda(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2015-04) Larson, Donald F. ; Savastano, Sara ; Murray, Siobhan ; Palacios-Lopez, AmparoAfrican 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.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2001-05) Larson, Donald F. ; Borrell, BrentReviewing cross-country experience with sugar policies, and policy reform, the authors conclude that long-standing government interventions - rooted in historical trade arrangements, fear of shortages, and conflicting interests between growers, and sugar mills - often displace both the markets, and the institutions required to produce efficient outcomes. Arrangements rooted in colonial eras, still shape policies, and trade in the United States, the European Union (EU), and many developing countries. Once policies, and institutions are put in place, households, and the value of investments grow dependent on them, even as their usefulness fades. Firms and households make decisions that are costly to reverse. And the result is a legacy of path-dependent policies, in which approaches, and instruments are greatly influenced by past agreements, and previous interventions. The cumulative effects of these interventions are embodied in livelihoods, political institutions, capital stocks, and factor markets - which not only dictate the starting point for reform, but also determine which reform paths are feasible. Experiments with public ownership, common in many countries, have not succeeded. So most countries have initiated some measure of market reform. And events relating to NAFTA, Lome, and expansion of the EU, may bring about significant changes in the EU, and US sugar regimes, with cascading effects on other countries. Common problems in the sector include determining cane quality, finding methods for fairly sharing revenues from joint production, finding ways to take advantage of preferential trade arrangements with minimal negative consequences, finding ways to finance, and encourage research, and other activities with common benefits, identifying practices that facilitate equitable, sustainable privatization, and determining the relationship between sugar market reform, and markets in land, water, credit, and other inputs.
Long-Term Impacts of an Unanticipated Risk Event: The 2007/08 Food Price Crisis and Child Growth in Indonesia(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2016-04) Yamauchi, Futoshi ; Larson, Donald F.Unanticipated spikes in food prices can increase malnutrition among the poor, with lasting consequences; however, livelihood strategies that include producing food for home consumption are expected to offer a measure of protection. Using anthropometric and consumption data from Indonesia collected before and after the 2007/08 food price crisis, this paper finds evidence of both effects. Based on standardized height and weight measures, the results indicate that soaring food prices had a significant and negative impact on child growth among non-farming households. A corresponding effect was undetectable for food-producing households. The results remain robust when income effects from increased commercial sales and possible attritions through migration and fostering are considered. Further, local food price changes were uncorrelated with the share of non-farming village households and the initial average child nutrition status in the village, suggesting that the observed outcomes are directly attributable to market events and livelihood strategies. Interestingly, gender differences were not detected. The findings imply that the food price crises can have negative impacts on children, potentially leading to lifelong income inequality among those affected at a vulnerable stage of life.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2016-06) Larson, Donald F. ; Muraoka, Rie ; Otsuka, KeijiroImproving 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.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2015-01) Larson, Donald F. ; Khidirov, Dilshod ; Ramniceanu, IrinaWhy produce a policy note on horticulture in Uzbekistan? There are several answers to this existential question, although they are not necessarily obvious ones. Agriculture, taken as a whole, constitutes a small and declining share of Uzbekistan s national income, and horticulture is a small share of agricultural income. Even so, it is an important source of income for the 4.7 million households that operate dehkan farms in rural and disproportionally poor communities. Horticultural products are grown on an additional 21 thousand larger private farms as well. Evidence in this note suggests that growing fruit and vegetables is among the most profitable activities on both dehkan and private farms and, over the last ten years, the incomes those activities generate comprised a growing share of national GDP. Horticultural export earnings have also surged in recent years, growing from USD 373 million in 2006 to USD 1.16 billion in 2010. Uzbekistan has special agro-ecological conditions that set it apart from most countries and provides the basis for its horticulture subsector. Like agriculture as a whole, the subsector benefits greatly from policies that support basic research in agronomy and post-harvest technologies, from policies that support private investment and efficient markets, and from policies that promote the good stewardship of natural resources. The policy note is centered on the horticultural subsector. However, because an effort is made to draw comparisons between the policy environment that prevails for dehkan farmers and private farmers growing horticultural crops and that which is relevant for private farmers growing wheat and cotton, the note touches on many sector-wide issues. Still, it is important to emphasize that this policy note should not be viewed as a general review of agricultural policies. Finding ways to adapt policy lessons from horticulture to improve agricultural productivity as a whole is a more ambitious task and one that requires broader analysis and discussion.
Publication( 2010-11-01) Larson, Donald F. ; Otsuka, Keijiro ; Kajisa, Kei ; Estudillo, Jonna ; Diagne, AliouAsia'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.
Publication( 2009-03-01) Larson, Donald F. ; Sarris, AlexanderFood policy often depends on markets and markets depend on institutions. But how good do institutions have to be before reforms can be launched? Relying on well timed surveys of agricultural prices and a joint study by the Government of Bulgaria and the World Bank on agricultural market institutions, this paper presents evidence that performance in food markets improved following significant policy reforms in Bulgaria, although public institutions remained weak. This suggests that even though strong institutions are preferred to weak ones, it can be costly and impractical to delay policy reforms until work on strengthening institutions is finished. Still, measured performance varied by place and by commodity, suggesting that markets developed at different tempos and that the distribution of benefits from improved markets was uneven. This points to the need to address the costs of adjustment as policies change. The paper introduces a new approach to measure market performance based on composite-error techniques.
Should African Rural Development Strategies Depend on Smallholder Farms? An Exploration of the Inverse-Productivity Hypothesis(Wiley, 2013-09-03) 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 article explores a research design conundrum that encourages researchers who study the relationship between productivity and scale to use surveys with a narrow geographic reach in order to produce more reliable results, even though results are better suited for policy decisions when they are based on data that are broadly representative. Using a model of endogenous technology choice, we 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, our 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.