Interview with Ruba Al-Zu'bi about NEX-LABS' impact and the importance to use innovation as a tool for success

A picture of Ruba Al-Zu'bi from her speech at TEDxArarStreetWomen

Is one of the most profitable and interesting sources among those who follows our NEX-LABS Agora every day: her name is Ruba Al-Zu’bi and is “a very well-known sustainable development policy and planning expert, and a true inspiration for youngsters in Jordan and beyond” 

We thank her a lot for the time she dedicated to us for this interview that you can read below.

Ruba’s work focuses on NEXUS Water-Food-Energy in the Mediterranean area since many years and, being the NEXUS approach at the centre of the NEX-LABS project too, the first question could only be about it….

You write in your blog that “Re-anchoring the value of agriculture, water, energy, and nature is by itself a trigger for transformation in the future of work in the Middle East and North Africa region.” How much is the understanding of this Nexus of fundamental importance to be able to tackle the climate change?

This nexus is of utmost importance as a framework for climate action especially for adaptation measures, but what is as important is the economic and social dimensions that would be positively impacted through climate action. Job creation and social welfare will have different meanings moving forward. Youth, women, and businesses need to be co-creators of the climate action agenda. We have a long way to go when it comes to education, research and development, testing new technologies, and partnership building.  

A few months ago you wrote about water scarcity that: “The COVID-19 pandemic is only confirming that and expediting action on a more synergetic approach for tackling energy, water, and food insecurities.” Do you think that this path has already been undertaken or that we are still far from being fully aware of it?

The pandemic is – undoubtedly - refocusing the attention of governments, people, and businesses on food security. In countries where water and energy security is an issue, this brings about the nexus approach as an inevitable strategy. It is unfortunate that we had to go through tough times to return to the natural interdependence between water, energy, and food; but we should leverage this awakening to create a more robust and integrated model for developing these sectors.

Among your professional activities, you are also The Sahara Forest Project representative in Jordan. Recently this interesting project started a collaboration with Al Hussein Technical University. How strategic are partnerships of this type for sustainable development in the Euro-Mediterranean region?

Sustainable development is achievable only through partnerships that add value and invest in human capital as a driver for action and innovation. Through the Sahara Forest Project – HTU collaboration, we tested a model for up-skilling young Jordanian females that are interested in and passionate about agriculture and sustainability. Upon observing the transformation in the graduates’ knowledge and confidence, both entities decided to institutionalize this program to empower women in the agrit-ech industry not only as potential employees but also as social and green entrepreuneurs that mobilize communities to act on climate and adopt the nexus approach. Several examples showed that women and youth can and will claim their role if equipped with the right tools and knowledge. The Sahara Forest Project launched ‘She Grows’ as one of its strategic pillars and we hope to see it expanding within Jordan and the mediterranean region. After all, we do share many of the sustainable development challenges, opportunities as well as aspirations.

The NEX-LABS project aims to contribute to the creation of a sustainable and resilient agro-food sector based on NEXUS driven Open Living Labs (NDOLL) approach, thus strengthening technology transfer, cooperation between industry-academia, increasing commercialization opportunities and innovation-driven growth. What are your suggestion to make the NEX-LABS project’s impacts successful?

This mission of the NEX-LABS is a nobel yet challenging one. Enabling such approach demands widespread outreach and awareness on innovation and commercialization for public, private, NGOs, and academia. Innovation should become a mindset and a tool rather than a goal by itself. Green growth is everyone’s business and needs to be prioritized and mainstreamed across sectoral policies and institutions. 

You can follow Ruba Al-Zu’Bi, as we do, on her blog ( or social networks:

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