The loan from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) will help finance the $30.5 million Microfinance Innovation and Outreach Programme, meant to support pilot projects that will test new microfinance products and services for Pakistan’s rural poor. At least 180,000 households are expected to benefit.“This innovative programme will ensure that Pakistan’s rural poor will be able to access a wider range of sustainable financial services and products that respond directly to their needs,” said Nigel Brett, IFAD’s Country Programme Manager for Pakistan. IFAD is working closely with the World Bank on the initiative.IFAD will also work with the Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund to develop a variety of new microfinance products and services aimed at reducing debt, minimizing risk and generating income and assets. These could include livestock insurance, equity partnerships, leasing arrangements, Islamic modes of financing and other innovative financing systems. Islamic financing mechanisms must adhere to a set of rules and laws collectively known as the Sharia.The development programme will also strengthen local lending institutions so they can expand and improve their services throughout rural areas. And it will expand employment opportunities as young graduates gain practical experience by training as interns and then secure employment in local microfinance institutions.