It is increasingly recognised that agriculture must play a role in pro-poor economic growth in countries with large, poor rural sectors. There is also a major focus on social protection interventions to address risks and insecurity affecting poor people. However current policy debate and formulation make only limited attempts to integrate agricultural and social protection policies. This paper outlines significant paradigm shifts in policies affecting both these fields and highlights pertinent issues arising from interactions between agricultural and social protection policies. The paper begins by setting out the sources and effects of stress in rural people’s livelihoods, and their responses to stress. Poor rural people’s livelihoods are complex, diverse and risk-prone with inherent seasonal instability. Vulnerability not only affects people’s welfare, it also reduces growth, directly by destroying assets, and indirectly as the threat of shocks and stresses diverts assets from more productive activities to those that reduce vulnerability.