Government strategies to promote social protection and agricultural development in Ethiopia are closely intertwined. Interventions such as the government's Food Security Programme attempt to both protect and promote rural livelihoods. However, tensions exist within and between Ethiopia's existing social protection and agricultural policies. Smallholder farming, the dominant livelihood activity for most Ethiopians, is assumed to be the source of Ethiopia's future economic growth while at the same time the government‟s land policies constitute a \"poverty trap‟. Also, to protect farmers facing food insecurity, the government has initiated a Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP), which delivers predictable public works employment as well as cash transfers, rather than emergency food aid. However, poor seasonal timing of public works projects constrains agricultural production. This paper explores these synergies and trade-offs between agricultural and social protection policies for Ethiopian smallholders. The paper also highlights recent social protection innovations – such as weather-indexed insurance and the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange – which show encouraging promise of reducing vulnerability while also promoting agriculture growth for smallholders.